Facebook blocks page of Laal music band at govt request

Published: June 6, 2014


ISLAMABAD: Facebook has blocked the popular page of liberal Pakistani band Laal and others that criticise the Taliban at the request of the government, angering activists campaigning against censorship in the country.

Laal formed in 2007 and are known for their progressive politics.

Their Facebook page has more than 400,000 likes, with users frequently joining debates on issues ranging from feminism to the role of the country’s army in politics.

But it has been inaccessible to users from inside Pakistan since Wednesday.

Other pages like “Taalibansarezalimans” (The Taliban are oppressors) and “Pakistani.meem” which describes itself as pro-democracy and secularism, have similarly been blocked in recent days.

“Facebook didn’t even inform us, I realised when I noticed no activity on our page,” Taimur Rahman, Laal’s lead guitarist, told AFP.

Facebook confirmed the move to AFP Friday saying Laal’s page had been blocked inside Pakistan at Islamabad’s request, under an agreement to limit access to material that violates local laws.

A Facebook spokeswoman said: “While we never remove this type of content from the site entirely, like most Internet services, we may restrict people from accessing it in the countries where it is determined to be illegal.

“Before we restrict the content, we take significant steps to investigate each unique claim, consult with local counsel and other experts in the country, and will only remove content in the most limited way possible,” she added.

According to a page on Facebook that deals with government requests, 162 pieces of content were restricted for viewership inside Pakistan between July to December 2013.

“We restricted access in Pakistan to a number of pieces of content primarily reported by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Ministry of Information Technology under local laws prohibiting blasphemy and criticism of the state,” the page says.

While attempts to access those sites result in a government message informing the user that the content has been blocked for viewership within Pakistan, clicking Laal’s page (www.facebook.com/laalpak) or the other liberal pages instead re-directs a user towards their own home feed.

Shahzad Ahmad, director of the Bytes For All organisation that campaigns for free speech said: “The is a mass murder of free speech in Pakistan.”

Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer, added: “This is a grave mistake by Facebook. Also for the Pakistani government to make such requests is illegal and unconstitutional.”

Pakistan’s agreement with Facebook came to light last year when a senior official from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, an Internet regulatory body, was summoned by the Lahore High Court in a case concerning the YouTube ban, but its terms have not been made public.

When called for comment on Friday, Khurram Ali Mehran, a spokesman for the regulatory body denied the existence of such an agreement, saying Facebook had acted alone. “We have no agreement with Facebook whatsoever, it’s a pack of lies,” he said.

“We have not closed the page of Laal, Facebook has its own terms of reference and it closes pages that seem indecent to them,” he added.

Rahman, the musician, said the blocking of the page was indicative of diminishing space for liberals in the country.

“If you have progressive or liberal views you will be gunned down or silenced but if you have extremist views and take up arms Pakistan will give you the status of a stakeholder in power and negotiate with you,” he said.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Mohammad naeem
    Jun 6, 2014 - 6:40PM



  • Julia
    Jun 6, 2014 - 6:43PM

    So the Facebook blocks pages on the government request? Sounds strange


  • Pakistani
    Jun 6, 2014 - 6:57PM



  • Bunty
    Jun 6, 2014 - 6:58PM

    And you call it democracy… hahaha this is SHARIF disctatorship… where doctors are beaten to not standing up for an uneducated PML N MPA… and NOTHIN HAPPENS…


  • waqas
    Jun 6, 2014 - 6:59PM

    Highly Biased article.


  • Pawail Qaisar
    Jun 6, 2014 - 7:21PM

    I don’t agree with the decision to block anything on the internet.

    But Laal is one of those bands which have used politics to gain ‘sasti shohrat’ (cheap popularity). Taimur Rahman is a complete hypocrite as the views he projects to the public, he doesn’t seem to follow himself (case in point: what happened inside the band itself).


  • Laal
    Jun 6, 2014 - 7:42PM

    It has not been blocked by Facebook at all. Laal band itself has restricted access in Pakistan. This can be easily done by any page manager.Recommend

  • Ali S
    Jun 6, 2014 - 7:49PM

    This is why our media and brainwashed public should have stood up for Geo (despite its admittedly horrific standard of journalism) when it was being banned instead of welcoming the ban to show their chest-thumping patriotism and loyalty to our shady ISI/establishment. It was only the tipping point – now it’s onto websites, social media and blogs.

    Whatever gains in freedom of speech were made by the media boom in the early 2000s will soon be as good as dead, and it doesn’t help that PML-N was notoriously censor-happy when it was in power back in the 90s. Recommend

  • Budh Jumirat
    Jun 6, 2014 - 7:51PM

    Well done facebook! Laal admins blocked me for expressing views that were different from theirs. I am glad they got a taste of their own medicine.

    Teeheee :p


  • lalai
    Jun 6, 2014 - 7:52PM

    I hate when someone else tries to decide what is good or otherwise for me. You cannot stop information flow in this age of information with these tactics.


  • Nadir
    Jun 6, 2014 - 8:20PM

    Thank you Facebook. Institutions are now motivated!


  • Liberal
    Jun 6, 2014 - 8:33PM

    Hah! And I thought we got independent in 1947. My bad, i was definitely wrong.


  • Shuaib
    Jun 6, 2014 - 9:42PM

    If the government is opposed to people who are opposed to the Taliban does that mean our government likes the Taliban?THIS IS WRONG!!! WE SHOULD HAVE A THOUSAND MORE OF THESE GROUPS!Recommend

  • Aamir
    Jun 6, 2014 - 9:55PM

    PML N more dictator then the dictator…censoring what they dont like…


  • Shahzad
    Jun 6, 2014 - 10:24PM

    Pakstam Meem never got blocked. They just unpublished their page for sometime following the PTA attack!


  • Moiz Omar
    Jun 6, 2014 - 11:48PM

    The Government is stupid. Banning every thing.


  • Waseem Sarwar
    Jun 7, 2014 - 12:19AM

    It is working alright.


  • sayeJee
    Jun 7, 2014 - 12:35AM

    how can they do, Even I do not know who is Laal Band and what they do..!! This must be band stunt to become popular…


  • Mahrukh
    Jun 7, 2014 - 10:33AM

    Publicity stunt by Laal. PTA has denied blocking it. In any case, FB is not controlled by PTA that it would block any page requested to be blocked by PTA. FB has it’s own policies and criteria for blocking pages.



  • Khizer Hayat
    Jun 7, 2014 - 3:05PM

    Nice move, they were spreading hatred against the mother land.


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