PTA shelves 'obscene' text message ban

By AFP
Published: November 22, 2011
Email
The list was met with uproar, both at the attempt to censor messages and the inclusion of many seemingly innocuous terms, among them "Jesus Christ", "lotion", "athlete's foot", "robber", "idiot", "four twenty" and "harder".

The list was met with uproar, both at the attempt to censor messages and the inclusion of many seemingly innocuous terms, among them "Jesus Christ", "lotion", "athlete's foot", "robber", "idiot", "four twenty" and "harder".

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan rowed back on Tuesday from demands that text messages containing nearly 1,700 “obscene” words should be blocked, following outrage from users and campaigners.

On November 14, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) distributed a list of 1,695 words in English and Urdu to operators, giving them seven days to implement a filtering system.

But the list was met with uproar, both at the attempt to censor messages and the inclusion of many seemingly innocuous terms, among them “Jesus Christ”, “lotion”, “athlete’s foot”, “robber”, “idiot”, “four twenty” and “harder”.

On Tuesday, PTA spokesman Mohammad Younis Khan told AFP the authority would consult civil society representatives and mobile phone operators on refining a much shorter list of words, giving no timeframe for any eventual ban.

“At the moment we are not blocking or filtering any word,” Khan said. “No final decision has been taken in this regard,” he added.

A PTA committee with representatives of civil society and mobile phone operators will decide on a “final list of objectionable words” which Khan conceded could be only around “a dozen”.

“We have no plan to block any word until and unless it is approved by that committee and it will take time to reach that decision,” he added.

A letter accompanying the list on November 14 said filtering was legal under the Pakistan Telecommunication Act of 1996 which prohibits people from transmitting messages that are “false, fabricated, indecent or obscene”.

The PTA on Tuesday claimed that the November 14 list was merely “preliminary” and “advice” for operators to adopt a filtering system.

Mobile operators have already detailed their “concerns and reservations” and said they would seek further clarification from the PTA.

“Most of the words mentioned in the list are used legally,” lawyer Syed Mohammad Tayyab told AFP.

“Like 420. It is a section of the Pakistan Penal Code,” he said.

“The PTA policy is unjust and unfair on the face of it. It needs judicial review,” said Tayyab, who is also a senior prosecutor in terrorism cases.

Campaign group Bytes for All had vowed to challenge the order in court, saying “a new, ruthless wave of moral policing” violated rights to free speech and privacy, and made a mockery of the entire country.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (18)

  • Nov 22, 2011 - 2:19PM

    hmmmm

    Recommend

  • Parvez
    Nov 22, 2011 - 2:20PM

    The PTA needs to be told that : If you have nothing to do please don’t do it here.

    Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Nov 22, 2011 - 2:34PM

    Making and sending obscene text messages to other people indicated the sick mentality of such people.

    Every day I receive such text messages without fail and delete it without reading it. One cannot change the thinking of such sick and mentally retarded people, who leave no stone unturned in making and sending such text messages.

    It proves how these people were brought up and their family background. Any person who is brought up in a proper way will never ever think to send obscene text messages.

    Recommend

  • Acorn Guts
    Nov 22, 2011 - 2:35PM

    Yes indeed, lets get more idle hands working on this list for another year or so. Lets pocket few more pennies off the system for something that is ultimately bound for a failure or utter uselessness.

    Recommend

  • H.A. Khan
    Nov 22, 2011 - 2:43PM

    PTA be realistic and please do not make a laughing stock of the country

    Recommend

  • Word Life
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:02PM

    Atlast Sanity prevails …

    Recommend

  • AS
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:08PM

    Some sense at last.

    Recommend

  • Fikar Kero
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:31PM

    This was only to stop pple from using obscene words for the politicians but seriously how can they even think of putting a prophet’s name (Jesus Christ) in the list. Not only Christians but Muslims also believe in Him.
    @ Lawyer Syed Mohammad Tayyab: Doesnt this comes in blasphemy act?

    Recommend

  • Moazzam Salim
    Nov 22, 2011 - 4:06PM

    Issue is not the words but the presence of unwanted sms or calls. One can send blank sms and still be pretty intimidating. The system for banning such callers should be improved and implemented instead of focusing on words.

    Recommend

  • peace wanted
    Nov 22, 2011 - 4:08PM

    pta shud spend more time tracing terrorism related sms communication rather than all this Recommend

  • Maria
    Nov 22, 2011 - 4:47PM

    Great to hear that this idiocy has been put to an end, looks like the campaign http://www.ptablock.pk and others did make a difference. Another victory for social media!

    Recommend

  • Nov 22, 2011 - 4:51PM

    A very controversial more. Check out my blog for more information.

    Recommend

  • Veedo
    Nov 22, 2011 - 7:33PM

    PTA… You are good for nothing! Choose some other way to be in headlines!

    Recommend

  • H.A
    Nov 22, 2011 - 9:19PM

    PTA be realistic and please do not make a laughing stock of the country

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Nov 22, 2011 - 9:39PM

    First they make a mockery out of Pakistan by 1. attempting to censor and 2. providing the lamest of words.
    As if we werent already a joke. A Holes! The PTC chairman needs to ‘deeply penetrated’!

    Recommend

  • Nov 22, 2011 - 9:51PM

    Its a good initiative by government.. Must be thing will be better in future..

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Nov 22, 2011 - 10:55PM

    ET should allow all words in comments for this particular post. I want to call PTA so many things.

    Recommend

  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Nov 22, 2011 - 11:46PM

    Well, atleast the “affectees” got their “right” back. thank goodness they wont have to waste their energy on making “new and improved” versions of the original 1500 or so. :D

    Recommend

More in Life & Style