YouTube ban: IT minister, secretary given until Sep 19 for appearance

LHC told that the minister is away for Umra.


Our Correspondent August 08, 2013
DESIGN: ANUSHAY FURQAN

LAHORE:


The Lahore High Court on Wednesday allowed the minister for Information Technology and her additional secretary time till September 19 to appear in court for the hearing of a petition against the ban on access to YouTube.


The court also allowed Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique and Syed Iqtidar Haider to become parties to the case by admitting their applications.

An additional attorney general had written to the court saying that the minister had gone to Saudi Arabia for Umra and therefore another date should be fixed for her appearance.

Siddique had submitted in his application that while the ban on access to Youtube curtailed some fundamental rights, some of the content on such websites could hurt the religious sentiments of people. Access to these websites should not be allowed because that could result in rioting and chaos in the society.

He said that the Ministry of Information and Technology and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority did not have filters that could sift offensive content on Youtube, which is why the website had been blocked for public viewership. The court is hearing a petition challenging the YouTube ban filed by an NGO, Bytes for All, through Advocate Yasir Hamdani. He has submitted that filtering and blocking information on the internet is counterproductive and predatory. The petitioner has sought directions for the Ministry of Information Technology and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to allow unrestricted access to YouTube.

YouTube was blocked across Pakistan on September 17, 2012, following orders by then-prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. The PM had imposed the ban after YouTube refused to remove from its website, The Innocence of Muslims, a movie the Pakistani government decided was blasphemous. Farieha Ijaz, called as amicus curie for an opinion on the matter, had strongly recommended free access to the website.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2013.

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