YouTube battle moves on to next stage at Lahore High Court

Petitioner argues that the blocking of the website over a blasphemous film violates the right to information.


Rana Tanveer September 22, 2013
The YouTube ban, now just over a year old, has been challenged by Bytes for All, an NGO, through a petition filed several months ago. PHOTO: lhc.gov.pk

LAHORE:


The legal battle at the Lahore High Court over the reopening or otherwise of video-sharing website YouTube took a step forward last week as the judge hearing the case recommended that a full bench be set up to deal with the matter.


The YouTube ban, now just over a year old, has been challenged by Bytes for All, an NGO, through a petition filed several months ago. The petitioner argues that the blocking of the website over a blasphemous film is counter-productive, violates the right to information, and hurts those seeking knowledge.

Last week, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah asked Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial to refer the matter to a full bench. In remarks accompanying his request, the judge appeared to suggest that banning websites was impractical and the answer lay in people exercising their own judgement when deciding what site to visit or not visit, or when deciding what sites their children could visit.

“In today’s digital age, information over the internet cannot be blocked but can be intelligently regulated. There are no borders or walls that can limit this information from flowing into Pakistan, unless of course we shut down the internet completely and sever our links with the outside world. It appears that a sustainable answer to the problem is self-regulation at the individual and house-hold level. The World Wide Web has all sorts of information, ranging from the very useful to the outright offensive. The choice is ours. We can either draw upon the useful information for our national development or fall prey to the negative content and immerse ourselves in moral and cultural chaos.

“In the end, the responsibility and the choice is of the individual to watch or not watch a controversial website as the same cannot be effectively blocked according to the level of technology present in our country today,” Justice Shah said.

Shoaib Akhtar

His sporting career has been over for a couple of years, but Shoaib Akhtar’s run-ins with the Pakistan Cricket Board continue. The Lahore High Court on September 19 took up a petition by the ex-cricketer challenging an 18-month ban on him representing Pakistan and a Rs7 million fine imposed on him by a PCB appellate tribunal.

Akhtar had been banned for five years by a disciplinary committee after he reportedly wacked his teammate Muhammad Asif with a cricket bat.

The tribunal reduced his sentence, but the Rawalpindi Express moved the LHC, which suspended the sentence while his petition was decided. Now, Akhtar wants the Rs7 million back from the PCB, whose representative told the LHC that the board would do so if ordered to by the court. The petition is to come up again on October 25.

Security

The LHC last week asked the police to explain why people accused of involvement in 118 shooting incidents at courts across the province in recent years had not been arrested.

The LHC was hearing a petition seeking improved security for lawyers, litigants and judges in light of a number of recent attacks at the courts. The chief justice, who headed the bench, observed that if the courts remained easy targets for terrorists, the people would not approach them to seek justice. He ordered the installation of CCTV cameras at all the subordinate courts in the Punjab and adjourned the hearing for October 18.

New judges

Six additional judges of the Lahore High Court were confirmed and took their oath of office on September 20. They are Justices Abdul Sami Khan, Ibadur Rehman Lodhi, Shujaat Ali Khan, Ayesha A Malik, Shahid Waheed and Ali Baqar Najafi.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2013.

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