WILL Pakistan ever learn that bans are counterproductive and only serve to make a laughing stock out of us? More importantly, will our decision-makers ever realise that it is futile to try and police the world? Apparently not. A couple of years ago, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, on the directives of the Lahore High Court, blocked at least 800 webpages and URLs, including Facebook and some sections of Wikipedia, for containing allegedly blasphemous material. The move was met with condemnation and derision, particularly since there exist a number of alternate methods of accessing websites that may have been blocked. The only way to comprehensively control access to parts of the Internet is to ensure the entire country is offline and on that occasion the PTA had to back down. But no lessons were learnt. On Sunday, the government blocked Pakistanis’ access to Twitter for eight hours, saying that the website’s administrators had not been forthcoming with the assurance demanded by the authorities here that certain allegedly blasphemous material be removed. Twitter remained offline until a public outcry forced — yet again — a reversal of the ban.

Credit for having the website unblocked was appropriated by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who tweeted “As committed, Twitter has been unblocked but I request (the management) to stop anti-Islam material on Twitter which hurts Muslim Ummah”. That’s all very well, but the only thing Pakistan can do about hurtful things being said in other parts of the world is to ignore them, and show grace by not rising to the bait. The state cannot take upon itself the task of choosing what people may or may not have access to, thereby impeding the flow of information and expression. If there is objectionable material on the Internet, citizens can choose not to access it. The answer does not lie in censorship and bans.

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Comments (14)

hassan
May 22, 2012 4:04 am
i dont see how websites like twitter are productive ? the question of censorship and bans is a different one but how in the world is a website like twitter productive ?
sehrish
May 22, 2012 4:25 am
I agree with you...closing/banning twitter here does not make any difference to the twitter management we need to change our approach towards international issues.
Rizwan
May 22, 2012 5:25 am
Can any body tell me what are the benefits of using twitter or facebook........ a very disguisting approach by the writer..... people were living before these site and i beleive the can leave with out. Pakistan will move forward using these site means not Pakistan is progreesing in IT industry. These site are in general spoiling our young generation.....
Tayyeb mehmood Khan
May 22, 2012 5:34 am
Having an opinion about ban or censorship for any purpose is a relevant topic but needs separate discussion. Many countries who have a major impact on global economy graphs are much concerned about their upcoming generation. China being the top of such list has been filtering the top social community networks, along with million of websites for several years. They are the biggest extremists i presume?? I have been looking around twitter policies and found this "As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content." So what went wrong when Pakistani gov asked for the removal of the content?? Being Muslims it is our prime responsibility to back such decisions by our government, but i think we have made this a custom to always criticise every action and prove ourselves broad-minded!!.
Khalid
May 22, 2012 6:37 am
Benefits are obvious to any one with an open mind. Staying socially connected in this global world is important. I am NOT a big user of facebook or tweeter and I do see problems arising for some of its users. But we cannot ban printing paper because we dont like 1 book.
riffatr
May 22, 2012 7:15 am
If you were using Twitter "productively", you will have your question answered. The issue is more about rights here. Our very Constitution states that its citizen has the right to information and that includes information coming through social networking websites (which let me tell you offer the quickest way to identify latest events, happenings etc.) Twitter is a way for you to be heard. You don't have to write 500 words and send it to the editor so that it can be published in a newspaper only to be thrashed by the receiver. No. Twitter is effective. And therein, lies the importance of having it. For a country that is mostly being hovered over by unruly talk shows and inherently shrewd politicians, it becomes a place where you let out the the stuff that doesn't get coverage on conventional media.
line
May 22, 2012 7:20 am
Right on! I'm accustomed to such senseless writings by Dawn's most senseless writers ever since kindergarten. These people only focus on a bunch of minority, broadcasting them as a majority view of the country. Sick minded!
md1
May 22, 2012 9:51 am
Regardless of the productivity of twitter or any other such network, main point here is what will banning do. Before the ban came I hardly noticed anything but once there was a ban I got curious and started searching for it. there are hundreds of pages created each day containing anti-Islamic materials, how many will you block? If you are weak from inside you will worry about them else you ignore them. How many other Islamic countries banned twitter? So, why Pakistan!! wake up people it is 21st century, here access to information is just a click away!
N Ahmed
May 22, 2012 2:00 pm
Instead of banning, there should be a counter response on twitter by the scholars and public by highlighting the attributes of Islam and our beloved prophet and remove misconceptions; banning wont serve any purpse in this context
pardesiuno
May 22, 2012 6:40 pm
Pakistan loves being the laughing stock of the world - somehow our courts and politicians just love being in the news, regardless of the reasons! There is no bad press they say eh?
Muhammad
May 22, 2012 7:24 pm
The benefits of twitter or facebook are the same as that of talking to people. It is upto the user if she wants to say good or bad thing!
allaisa
May 22, 2012 8:58 pm
This is what I wrote when I heard of banning of twitter. "Why ban only Twitter? You should ban all of Internet as it contains blasphemous writings" Though you did not print my comments, I am happy you agree with me.
babar
May 23, 2012 1:28 am
Every nation has a right to stop accepting something that does not suit its general population or as they find necessary, as long as they are strong enough to put their foot down, are able to implement what they want and are ready to face the external pressures or consequences, if any. Action being right or wrong is entirely a diffferent deebate. Yes, to gain respect for their actions governments should think before acting if desired results will be achieved from their actions.
tanu
May 23, 2012 2:24 am
it was good decision but does it true.
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