ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tele­communications Authority (PTA) has called upon YouTube to review its decision to block a TV channel run by the late Dr Israr Ahmed’s foundation over charges of hate speech.

“This unilateral shutdown of Dr Israr Ahmed’s channel, a prominent Muslim scholar, raises questions about the arbitrary limits of online expression,” the PTA said in its appeal to YouTube on Tuesday.

Sources in the PTA said the channel concerned used to broadcast videos of Dr Israr Ahmed that tried to shed light on the socio-economic order envisaged by the Holy Quran.

The PTA pleaded that such videos were only aimed at “educating the viewers”.

Pleads videos on the channel are only aimed at ‘educating the viewers’

YouTube suspended the channel after Jewish groups complained that its programmes carried contents which incited hate against them.

Dr Israr’s channel had almost three million subscribers and his lectures were admired by a large number of people living in the West.

The channel, operated by the son of Dr Israr Ahmed, shows recordings of the late scholar’s old speeches.

These contain his views about the end of the world in the light of Quranic verses and the Jews’ place in history.

A disciple of Dr Israr Ahmed decried the move as a violation of free speech by the West.

Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza said on his own YouTube channel the move betrayed the West’s double standard. “They acted upon complaints just by Jewish groups, without hearing the other side,” he said.

The complaints lodged with YouTube expressed fears that Dr Israr’s “preaching could trigger violence against Jews in the West by Muslims”.

Indian action

The Indian ministry of information and broadcasting barred 22 YouTube channels, including four based in Pakistan, on Tuesday over charges of spreading disinformation that posed a threat to “national security and public order”.

The Indian government had banned 35 YouTube channels and multiple social media accounts in January on charges of spreading “fake news”. A similar action was taken in December when 20 YouTube channels were blocked for airing “anti-India content”.

Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reported that the blocked YouTube channels had a combined following of 2.6 billion viewers.

According to the agency, New Delhi invoked “emergency powers” under IT laws to block 18 Indian channels.

“Multiple YouTube channels were used to post fake news on various subjects, especially against India’s armed forces,” the information ministry said in a statement.

The Indian government has been using IT rules introduced last year to crack down on social media dissent.

India has sought tough action by tech giants like Google and Facebook to root out “fake news” from their platforms.

In a meeting in February, officials told the firms their inaction had forced the government to order content takedowns, which in turn drew global criticism that authorities were suppressing free expression.

Google said at the meeting that India’s information ministry should avoid making takedown decisions public, but officials dismissed the idea.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2022

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