Six months and counting

Published: March 17, 2013
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PHOTO: FILE

PHOTO: FILE

What has Pakistan gained in the six months of the ongoing ban on YouTube? The ban dates back to September of last year, following the release on the website of a blasphemous video.

Since YouTube’s owners refused to take down the offensive video in Pakistan (but had done so in a few other countries such as Libya, Indonesia and India to name a few) and the government seems inept at placing “filtration mechanisms” to disallow the viewing of blasphemous material on the video-sharing website, Pakistanis have been deprived of an essentially useful resource like YouTube. Therein lies the problem: the government’s inability to recognise that it cannot police the internet and any plans to do so will just plunge the nation into a recess of the dark ages from where there is no way forward. Thankfully, an earlier plan to build a firewall was nixed in March last year but that was before the controversy erupted, and talks between the government and Google seem not to be making much headway either, so it would be foolish if authorities are to look for other nefarious ways to censor the internet.

Access to information is a right that cannot be denied and any attempt to thwart it must be seen as a threat to clamp down on civil liberties. Free expression is never easy in emerging democracies, especially in volatile societies, but it has to be negotiated and so far, the government has handled it in a manner that has made a mockery of Pakistan.

A removal of the ban on YouTube that lasted all of three minutes in December was shameful, as are the now-routine promises to unblock the ban “soon”. Clearly, the answer lies in engaging in meaningful talks with Google to find a mutually agreeable solution to this pitiful mess so that Pakistanis can access YouTube. An agreement with the internet giant needs to be reached as soon as possible. Perhaps, the authorities need to have a look at how some other countries have dealt with similar issues without resorting to such bans.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2013. 

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Reader Comments (8)

  • gp65
    Mar 17, 2013 - 2:29AM

    “Perhaps, the authorities need to have a look at how some other countries have dealt with similar issues without resorting to such bans.”

    Some other countries have local versions of youtube. The movie was removed from the local version of youtube. This is what happened in Egypt, India, KSA and BRazil.

    “Clearly, the answer lies in engaging in meaningful talks with Google to find a mutually agreeable solution to this pitiful mess so that Pakistanis can access YouTube.”

    What’s in it for google. Why should they come to the table to discuss this – the total digital revenue in Pakistan is around 7 million.

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  • Mar 17, 2013 - 10:05AM

    YouTube is mostly used for Entertainment. There are plenty of video hosting sites available to combat that.

    For educational purposes Pakistanis can always use ITunes library, which streams classroom discussions from Ivy League universities.

    There are plenty of sources where your educational needs can be met. This is the Internet for God sakes.

    Unbanning something because of its entertainment value, even though it contains blasphemous materials is ridiculous and not expected of an Islamic Country.

    Look at China, they don’t have Facebook or Youtube. Are they not doing well?

    This editorial is the typical liberal narrative in Pakistan.

    I am an Indian and I fully support Pakistan banning un-Islamic websites, especially YouTube. I even say ban FB, as it contains many Blasphemous materials.

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  • tj
    Mar 17, 2013 - 6:11PM

    a mockery of Pakistan has been made..what is new in that?news would be if our leaders handled something maturely resulting in improving the image of Pakistan.

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  • desi786
    Mar 17, 2013 - 6:39PM

    Banning youtube may not be a good option as student using edX are effected – a free website providing courses by Harvard , MIT. GoP must choke Google, parent company, by curbing their ad revenur of USD 7 million….

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  • M Ali Khan
    Mar 17, 2013 - 6:40PM

    @BruteForce:
    Not sure of serious, or just trolling…..

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  • cautious
    Mar 17, 2013 - 6:45PM

    Youtube ban is akin to shooting yourself in the foot – keeping the ban in place is akin to not putting a proper bandage on the wounded foot.

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  • BruteForce
    Mar 17, 2013 - 10:52PM

    @M Ali Khan:

    Oh I’m serious. Pakistan doesn’t need YouTube. If a man can get death for blasphemy a website can surely be banned. Unless you think websites are of more value than human life.

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  • sini
    Mar 18, 2013 - 4:39AM

    The most Pakistanis need is EDUCATION with a BROAD BASE not BLASPHEMY. if the Pakistanis attack their own US Ambassdor, and people who are hiding under BRUTE FORCE encourage that from behind. The guy/s hiding has no conviction what they are supporting. Internatonal Community wasted hundreds of Billions of dollars HOPING some change will happen with constant exposure, it turned out to be otherwise. Ignorance is not CRIME. Fail to getout of it using the tools offered is a BIG CRIME.

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