PESHAWAR, Aug 1: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the Peshawar High Court on Thursday that in Sept last year, it had initially blocked around 2067 websites carrying a blasphemous movie, but due to excessive uploading of the movie it completely blocked a social media website, YouTube, on the order of the ministry of information technology (MoIT).
The MoIT also said it and other relevant stakeholders were working on viable technical solution in order to permanently block an objectionable blasphemous movie from YouTube as currently, there was no mechanism available for automatically blocking or filtering such contents.
The statements were part of the comments submitted by the PTA and the MoIT on the matter to a bench comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Malik Manzoor.
Mian Muhibullah Kakakhel had filed a petition against the blocking of YouTube since Sep 17, 2012.
The PTA in its comments stated that an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) was formed by the government in 2006 for formalisation of procedures for blocking of websites and the role of the PTA was now to honour the decisions taken by the IMC as and when communicated by the MoIT.
It added that since 2006, the PTA had blocked around 21,628 websites containing obnoxious material.
The PTA said following the appearance of a blasphemous video, from Sept 11 to Sept 17, 2012, a total of 2,067 websites were blocked including 747 YouTube links, 271 of Facebook, 141 of Google and several others.
However, it added that due to excessive links appearance of YouTube on Sept 17 complete ‘YouTube’ had been blocked on the direction of the MoIT.
It stated that on July 22, a meeting of representatives from educational institutions, stakeholders and Member (Telecom) on behalf of MoIT was held and that the said meeting concluded that currently automated blocking of blasphemy content on internet was not possible.
The MoIT in its comments informed that the government was also pursuing the case with the US administration on diplomatic level and in this regard, former federal minister for IT Dr Sania Nishtar had personally met with the US ambassador in Pakistan.
The bench told the petitioner to file rejoinder to the comments.
The petitioner has claimed that the YouTube blocking was depriving people from knowledge, therefore the YouTube need to be unblocked. He contended that the blasphemous/ objectionable contents should be banned so that the general public could use it for positive activities.
When the bench took up for hearing the case, deputy attorney general Mohammad Iqbal Mohmand informed that the ministry of IT and the PTA had filed their comments, but the third respondent, ministry of interior, had yet to submit its comments.
An additional secretary Mohammad Ijaz Mian appeared for the MoIT, whereas member (legal) of PTA Kamran Ali and assistant director Jawad Akhtar also turned up.
The MoIT in its comments stated that the situation was reviewed by the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) for Web Evaluation on Feb 8, 2013 and it was noted that the situation had not changed due to policy constraints of YouTube, sentiments of public and non-availability of technical solution to block 100 percent blasphemous contents. Hence IMC unanimously decided to continue blocking of the website.
It stated that a policy directive was issued by the ministry in May 2012 to PTA for deployment of a state of the art technical solution for proactively and independently blocking the websites displaying the blasphemous and pornographic contents.
However, it is added, the PTA till date is yet to implement the said policy directive.
Regarding the blasphemous video, the MoIT claimed that as an immediate remedial action it had made an emergency request to administration of Facebook and YouTube to ban the said objectionable contents on their websites. In response, the management of Facebook removed the objectionable contents and restricted the access and upload of the content titled “Innocence of Muslims video”.
However, it added the management of Google Inc. did not remove the contents from YouTube and said the YouTube complied with widely recognised principles of international law conforming to the laws of USA and as such was under no obligation to comply with Pakistan-specific content removal requests.
The comments state that the option of creating a localised web portal of YouTube, www.youtube.com.pk, was also being considered.
It added that Google Inc. had demanded the availability of intermediary legal protection legislation in operation and that the MoIT along with relevant stakeholders was working on Prevention of Electronic Crime Bill, 2013 to be placed before the Parliament after due process.