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To ban or not to ban?


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ABOUT three-and-a-half months after it was imposed, the government announced that the ban on YouTube was finally to be lifted.The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, it said, had now acquired a powerful software firewall to comprehensively block blasphemous online material such as the trailer of an anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims, which had led to the ban in the first place. The joy of millions of Pakistani Internet users was short-lived however, when YouTube, soon after being unblocked on Saturday, was banned again on the government’s orders.

One can concede that given the trailer’s provocative content the government had little choice but to impose a blockade in the charged atmosphere of the first few days — although many other countries blocked only the offending video and not the entire site. Pakistan did initially approach Google Inc. — the Internet giant that owns YouTube — to take down the offending trailer, and failing that, to block access to it. But it is a measure of PTA’s incompetence that it did not have an agreement with Google that would have allowed it to block the video. All this notwithstanding, the PTA cannot justify such an extended ban that deprives Pakistanis of thousands of sources of online information. Concerns for security should not outweigh people’s fundamental right to information. Also, the PTA cannot hide behind the excuse that it did not have the technical means until now to counter the situation arising from the uploading of offensive material. Telecommunications is one of the healthier sectors of the economy so finances certainly could not have been a factor. The lack of a coherent policy on the Internet or the social media seems more to blame in this case. The Internet is a vast space that can be put to positive and negative use and the authority should have been prepared to deal with such an eventuality. Moreover, the on-again, off-again ban reinforces the impression of a government out of step with the times where a mature approach is needed to navigate the minefield known as the World Wide Web.

Comments (6) Closed

akhter husain Dec 31, 2012 03:48pm
The state is being run on this truth,for they do not know any other solution.The poverty of mind and resources cause this mind set.
Cyrus Howell Dec 31, 2012 07:16am
The line it is drawn The curse it is cast The slow one now Will later be fast As the present now Will later be past The order is Rapidly fadin' And the first one now Will later be last For the times they are a-changin'. (BOB DYLAN)
ali ahmed Dec 31, 2012 04:40pm
pakistan is the only muslim country where you tube is blocked
Agha Ata (USA) Dec 31, 2012 01:51pm
A suggestion for Pakistan government: Lets make a list of all those things people enjoy, and then . . . ban them all together. People will cry for a little while, and then accept. But it is too much for them to cry again and again, and every time some good thing is banned!
Yousafzai Dec 31, 2012 09:46am
This is Good but if they have found a firewall then wt?? vl restrict inappropriate material only In Pakistan not Overall/in the whole world...this isn't a good strategy coz v Muslims need to completely delete the material from the internet so no 1 could have access to it...;Thats the main point.. Available to every one except Pakistan does not make any sense....and could be done only by a strict agreement between the two parties the owner (Youtube) and the government..
Does not matter Dec 31, 2012 04:55pm
I just wonder, who was forcing the people in Pakistan to watch that offending material? If you don't want to watch it, just don't look for that video on youtube. There are other millions of good videos about Islam to look for. Youtube is not like a TV or newspaper material. You see what you want to see. Its like a DVD. Don't rent it if you don't want to see it.But the government of Pakistan took an epic step of banning Youtube. Some day they might as well ban the internet in Pakistan.