ISLAMABAD, Sept 17: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed the Supreme Court on Monday that it had blocked 934 websites carrying an anti-Islam film which provoked worldwide protests.
PTA’s Director General Waseem Tauqeer, who had been summoned by the court, said the authority had acted on the orders of the ministry of information technology.
In a later announcement the PTA said that 650 of the 934 websites had been banned on YouTube, a popular social network, but added that there was a massive surge in offensive films and videos.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had taken up a petition filed by former Jamaat-i-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed and a letter by Justice (retd) Wajhiuddin Ahmed to the chief justice about prevalence of vulgarity and obscenity in TV programmes.
Advocates Akram Sheikh, representing Qazi Hussain, and Taufiq Asif drew the attention of the court to the profane anti-Islamic film titled “Innocence of Muslims” and said applications had already been filed in this regard.
They claimed that the film which contained disrespectful material against the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and hurt the feelings of people across the Muslim world was still available on websites in the country. “The PTA is under legal obligation to control such disgusting material, but it has failed to perform its statutory duty,” they said.
The lawyers sought a court order for the PTA to block the film on YouTube and continue to impose such ban in future.
After going through media reports on the issue, the court ordered the PTA chairman to immediately block the offending material on YouTube and other websites.
Later the PTA director general appeared before the court to inform that the authority had also written letters to social media networks like Facebook and YouTube, but the latter had expressed its inability to block the video clip in the absence of an agreement between it and the government of Pakistan.
“Being a Muslim we believe that the purpose behind creating the entire universe was only because of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” the chief justice observed.
He asked the PTA chief to submit a report to the court registrar highlighting the initiatives so far taken by the authority to block the offending video clip.
In a related development, Interior Minister Rehman Malik wrote a letter to Secretary General of Interpol (France) Ronald K. Noble asking him to take up the matter with major search engines to ensure the blocking of all anti-Islamic material on internet because it was highly detrimental to the war on terror.
The minister suggested to the Interpol secretary general to come up with a draft legislation to effectively counter such moves which adversely affected interfaith harmony and ultimately hurt world peace. This draft should be placed before the general assembly at its next meeting in Rome.
Referring to the case relating to obscenity on TV channels, the Supreme Court regretted that despite statutory provisions in the Constitution, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had failed to put in place commonly-accepted standards of decency.
The court noted that it appeared that except for issuing notices to some channels, no short- or long-term measures had been taken.
The court adjourned the hearing for three weeks and asked Pemra to devise the commonly-accepted standards of decency keeping in view of Article 37(g) of the Constitution about eradication and prevention of prostitution, gambling, circulation and publishing of obscene literatures, advertisements, etc. Pemra was also directed to initiate short- and long-term measures to curb obscenity and indecency on TV channels within two weeks.