Right to information: YouTube ban equated with stopping blasphemy

Published: March 14, 2014
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Counsel chastised for watching a YouTube video in the courtroom. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Counsel chastised for watching a YouTube video in the courtroom. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

LAHORE: 

A group of lawyers favouring the ban on YouTube staged protested demonstration outside the Lahore High Court against “blasphemy or any steps taken to defend blasphemers.”

Bytes for All, the petitioner, is seeking withdrawal of the ban on the popular video sharing website. Its counsel Yasser Latif Hamdani and four officials appeared at the LHC to attend the proceedings.

During the hearing, Advocate Azhar Siddique, the counsel opposed to lifting of the ban, alleged that Bytes for All was seeking restoration of the website because it had a Zionist agenda.

He said he would present evidence of 26 Zionist plots in this regard.

Responding to the allegations, Hamdani said his client wanted the ban to be because free flow of information was the right of every individual.

Siddique, chairman of the Judicial Activism Panel, was admonished by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah when he was told that Siddique had been watching a YouTube video in the courtroom a few minutes before the proceedings started.

Justice Shah remarked that Siddique had been opposing the reopening of YouTube for the general public but if he was watching videos on it himself, it was hypocrisy.

A representative of Bytes for All was also chastised and her voice recorder was confiscated till the next hearing. She had put her voice recorder near a loud speaker in the court room to record the proceedings.

She apologised to the judge but he issued her a show cause notice for contempt of court.

Earlier, a deputy attorney general presented a reply from the Minister of Information Technology Anushay Rehman.

It stated that after the posting of a controversial movie on YouTube, the government had banned the website on orders of the Supreme Court.

The judge remarked that the order was limited to blocking of that particular video.

Quoting the minister, the law officer said due to lack of technology, the government did not have mechanism to block specific contents from a website.

He said the government was trying to obtain filters for internet like those used by the Chinese and Saudi Arabian governments.

The judge remarked that the position of the government had not changed in 9 months.

Hamdani said Pakistan was democratic country and could put unconstitutional and undemocratic sanctions on the rights of the people.

He said no rules or laws permitted the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to put ban on internet content.

He said the ban violated Article 19, 19-A and 14 of the Constitution.

He rebutted the claim of the opposing counsel that reopening of YouTube was tantamount to blasphemy, saying that seeing blasphemous material could not be a crime.

He said there was a lot of academic and entertainment material on YouTube and various universities benefitted from using it.

Amicus curie Farieha Aziz, a representative of BoloBhi, also appeared before the court and stressed upon the need for reopening YouTube, saying those who wanted to use it could use proxies to gain access.

She said the ban had become useless.

Advocate Azhar Siddique said until the government developed a mechanism to filter objectionable material, the ban should continue.

Justice Shah remarked, “Today, if YouTube has been banned for just one objectionable video, tomorrow someone will seek to ban some other video. Why not block the entire internet?”

Siddique also requested the court to hear Osman Zaheer, whom he introduced as internet expert.  Zaheer is the man among the founding team of MillatFacebook, an “Islamic” version of Facebook launched after it was banned in 2010.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • Kaleem
    Mar 14, 2014 - 10:42AM

    A big LOL at Mr. Azhar siddique watching Youtube video himself.

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  • Junaid
    Mar 14, 2014 - 10:47AM

    So? What was the summary of this hearing? When will a final verdict be given?

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  • incognito
    Mar 14, 2014 - 11:00AM

    Come on guys give us a break, enough is enough. restore Youtube it is a great source of knowledge and entertainment. Stop being idiosyncratic!

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  • Logitech
    Mar 14, 2014 - 11:08AM

    Blasphemous material is accessible on all search engines as well as social media outlets. Why don’t we block them, too?

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  • Ali
    Mar 14, 2014 - 11:08AM

    When the YouTube was not banned in Pakistan, I remember while opening some videos the video didn’t opened and a message appeared instead that ” this video is not available in your region” it means that a specific video can be blocked for a certain region. May be YouTube will charge some amount to block the video but i believe it can be blocked. The Govt. is not just serious enough to control this matter.

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  • Junaid
    Mar 14, 2014 - 11:27AM

    Why do you have to access the blasphemous information in the first place? There are over 120 million videos on youtube currently. And the number grows by 200,000 everyday. It’s just dim to keep on blocking the entire site because you don’t agree with 0.00000002% of the videos on the site (that percentage decreases everyday). Though, I feel that this current bench will pass an enlightened judgement, going by the statements currently being released.

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  • A2Z
    Mar 14, 2014 - 11:33AM

    Those seeking to lift the ban want their “constitutional” right but himself busy in contempt of court by recording the proceedings.

    Those who are advocating in favour of ban were watching the youtube in courtroom.

    This is the respect given to the court by two parties who have opposing views. One is bragging about right of information and other is bragging about love for Islam. This sums up sheer hypocrisy of our nation.

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  • Faheem Rizvi
    Mar 14, 2014 - 11:45AM

    Why doesn’t the government realize that this ban is ineffective? Objectionable material is available on other sites, proxies can be used. If people from Islamic Republic of Pakistan want to go objectionable or blasphemous material, it is on their conscience, since when have we given the right to the government to be a controller of our conscience?

    We need to move on to solving greater more serious issues facing this great country, besides banning youtube, i mean, thats the only issue we have? Let the ban go and stop all this debate.

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  • Mozart
    Mar 14, 2014 - 12:10PM

    Technological illiteracy and stone age!

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  • Anonymous
    Mar 14, 2014 - 12:17PM

    wake up guys!! you still do not get it …

    Blocking Youtube saves alot of money of the Internet Service providers here in Karachi cause Youtube and other streaming sites require alot of bandwidth and is quite costly to pay the other countries from whom we receive this service!!!

    but the fact is .. we all are paying the equal right amount of money for the internet service but yet do not get what we actually want ..

    Government does not care if its economy is getting proper education or not ..all they want is to fill in their pockets..

    Sad but trUe!!Recommend

  • Waseem Sarwar
    Mar 14, 2014 - 12:23PM

    Why not ban the internet at all? It will save us from evil named knowledge?

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  • PakSolider
    Mar 14, 2014 - 12:25PM

    Instead seeking justice here, why don’t Bytes and bolo bhi contact to our beloved United States of America justice department for removal of these videos those cause anarchy and unrest. Why they want to put over justice in trouble by giving final verdict on this sensitive issue. By latest incident and stance of Google to upload edited version has also added fuel to fire and renewed the incident. We do not allow bytes and bolo bhi, foreign funded entities to lose our nation honor in front of a simple corporate.

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  • Mansoor
    Mar 14, 2014 - 12:39PM

    Probably we have forgotten the fact that when that video first appeared on Youtube, Pakistani govt contacted the Youtube management and requested to block it from Pakistani viewer’s as it was creating social unrest. Now, please bear in mind that youtube actually blocks/removes lot of videos on different subjects in different countries. So it was nothing new for them or against their policies. In fcat, the very same video was blocked by Youtube in another Mulim country! Still, they denied our request and I hope we remember what happened as the result, especially in Karachi. I am not sure how you will view this, but I consider it as a national shame.
    We should allow youtube only if they apologize for not blocking the video at that time and make sure that they will be careful in future. Allowing Youtube without any excuse from them would be another national shame.Recommend

  • Uzair
    Mar 14, 2014 - 12:51PM

    Come on guys, ban thought and feelings and critical thinking already…. umm wait, critical thinking is ALREADY banned in Pakistan.

    Good job everyone in government, including the learned minister for IT (who seems more like a minister for obscurancy rather than pushing Pakistan into the modern era), the CII, the judiciary, and everyone involved. Lets prove our faith is so week that we can not abide 1 video in 10 billion that offends us, and instead of debating and arguing on the contents of the video – which is the logical course of action if we believe the video presents a falsehood – we should ban the world’s largest video sharing site which has tons of educational material on it, and also look like fools to the rest of the world.

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  • Mansoor
    Mar 14, 2014 - 12:53PM

    please read this and you will see why govt blocked it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CensorshipofYouTube

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  • Anwaar
    Mar 14, 2014 - 12:59PM

    26 zionist agenda ?…. facepalm

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  • Farieha Aziz
    Mar 14, 2014 - 1:53PM

    @PakSoldier, I will only ask you to read this: interim order the judge when he was hearing the case previously: http://lhc.gov.pk/appjudgments/2013LHC1488.pdf

    Before making sweeping statements, understand the issue. It is not about YouTube and we have repeatedly said that. It is about our approach to content online and what we decide to do about it. And the balance between rights. Read up on what has been submitted before the court, what has been discussed. And contrary to the claim that YouTube has suffered due to the ban (which is a myth), Pakistanis are suffering. If you don’t want to access the website, that is your choice. But you can’t force others not to.

    The video was taken down and then restored over a copyright claim. The content was not questioned. Earlier last year, the US government itself had asked Google to review the video against community guidelines and remove it. The response to it can be found online. Difference is, in Pakistan we issue orders without legal frameworks, doesn’t happen elsewhere in the world.

    What the article does not mention is that I had also mentioned proxies are a dangerous alternate, as they infect users computers with malware and viruses. The reason for the ban being ineffective is because people can access YouTube anyway, so what purpose has it served? Also, on the Internet, unless you deliberately try and access something, you will never see it. So why try and access this video?

    Raise questions, you can have a different opinion, but do not accuse. And speak with facts, not preconceived notions. Recommend

  • imran ali
    Mar 14, 2014 - 1:54PM

    lawyer opposing opening of you tube…lawyers showered Mumtaz Qadri with rose petals,lawyers on strike,beating LEAs personal,firing in air…black coat mafiaRecommend

  • kafka
    Mar 14, 2014 - 1:55PM

    For that matter, internet is the biggest source of blasphemy. One can easily find a lot of such stuff on the internet from sources other than youtube. So ban internet and push us back further. Recommend

  • vaqas
    Mar 14, 2014 - 2:09PM

    ‘Why’ is an irrelevent matter in this subject. The fact that the flow of information should not be curtailed, for whatever reason, is what the real issue is. China and saudi arabia are the last two countries that should be followed in this matter. Stop this appeasement of the fanatics, this is exactly what stokes the flames of extremism. And let the freedom of information be the light that shines our path.Recommend

  • Ali S
    Mar 14, 2014 - 2:57PM

    How do such people even become lawyers?Recommend

  • Hassan Shah
    Mar 14, 2014 - 3:04PM

    Hamdani said Pakistan was democratic country and could put unconstitutional and undemocratic sanctions on the rights of the people.?? Editor Saab what were you doing while uploading this article?

    Secondly, Thanks to Independent Judiciary and Our erstwhile CJP Ch.Iftikhar Chaudhry blue eyed baby Azhar Siddique can come up with such things only. he got no plausible defence for unblocking youtube.

    Thirdly, Can Azhar Siddque and proponents of ban tell us which Islamic country banned youtube in their country post that blasphemous video. Recommend

  • Kaleem
    Mar 14, 2014 - 3:06PM

    @Paksoldier: Do you expect corporate to display ethics? The internet is full of such videos, why not block internet. Actually, you know what, they had blocked pornography and its use had been decreased. But thanks to youtube ban, all the kids have been shown a way to access everything now.Recommend

  • someone
    Mar 14, 2014 - 7:29PM

    So much so far for the freedom of expression :) Recommend

  • Blunt
    Mar 14, 2014 - 7:35PM

    incompetence of previous and present Govt not to install filters….Recommend

  • Khan
    Mar 14, 2014 - 10:00PM

    High time Pakistan banned Google and Facebook. Everybody knows deep inside their hearts that these website promulgate un-Islamic sentiments and promote misguided behavior. Pakistan needs to develop its own search engines and social networking portals. Why the wait on this? C’mon people – let there be a true Islamic revolution in Pakistan! No YouTube/Google/Facebook/Twitter, but Islamic versions of each.

    Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Mar 14, 2014 - 11:40PM

    Court should ask why the government has not installed a localized version of YouTube (to filter content a a country level) just like more than 50 other countries around the world (many Muslim) have already accomplished!
    A quick trip to wikipedia to search for “YouTube” will show the full list of countries that have accomplished this under the heading of “Localization”!
    Instead we have this farce of people pretending that localization does not exist so that YouTube ban can continue!Recommend

  • Tani
    Mar 15, 2014 - 1:04AM

    Watching youtube equated with blasphemy millatfacebook siddique himself watching youtube video before opposing to ban it 26 Zionist agenda.
    Hahaha just when u thought stupidity has limit, they go and do this. “funda-Mental-ist” .
    Soon call for ban on music and dance will follow… Hope the moderates and liberals win the case..

    Recommend

  • Tani
    Mar 15, 2014 - 1:08AM

    Watching youtube equated with blasphemy millatfacebook siddique himself watching youtube video before opposing to ban it 26 Zionist agenda.
    Hahaha just when u thought stupidity has limits, they go and do this. “funda-Mental-ist” .
    Soon call for ban on music and dance will follow… Hope the moderates and liberals win the case..

    Recommend

  • sharabi
    Mar 15, 2014 - 10:43AM

    i have to admit & confess the sin that i have watched that blasphemous video due to my curiosity , not from YouTube but from my friends Laptop. i am ashamed of those videos that how can someone try to distort others belief, at the same point ultimately it depends on me weather i like it or not and i absolutely dislike hence if you have faith in your heart than these blasphemous contents can not deviate you from what you truly believe.
    So source of knowledge should not be blamed

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  • No one can help us
    Mar 15, 2014 - 1:02PM

    The internet must be banned now aswell.

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  • Zahid Ghani
    Mar 16, 2014 - 2:21AM

    @Waseem Sarwar:

    Please dont give them ideas

    Recommend

  • Aschraful Makhlooq
    Mar 16, 2014 - 11:37AM

    3G and 4G licence provider companies have to be more careful because Pakistan is a country of baseless,unpredictable,unbelievable and untold decisions any time…..Recommend

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