YouTube service was disrupted in parts of Pakistan on Tuesday evening ahead of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s address at a party power show in Peshawar, according to NetBlocks — an organisation that tracks internet outages.
“NetBlocks recommends against the use of network disruptions and social media restrictions to limit political speech, given their disproportionate impact to fundamental rights including freedom of expression and freedom assembly,” the organisation said.
Prior to NetBlocks’ confirmation, a number of social media users had reported disruption in the website’s service.
The PTI and party leaders blamed the government for the development, adding that the ban would not be able to stop the party or Imran.
PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said Pakistan was now “officially turned into a banana republic”.
“So YouTube blocked again suddenly by this fascist imported govt and its handlers. Really sick mindsets,” tweeted former human rights minister Shireen Mazari.
“Imran Khan’s speech will be heard one way or another you petty frightened political pygmies. Never thought state would use cyber warfare against its own people! Shameful.”
“Pakistan Government has once again blocked YouTube just to stop people from watching Peshawar jalsa speech of the most popular Pakistani political leader Imran Khan,” alleged party focal person Azhar Mashwani.
Digital rights advocate Usama Khilji said “enough is enough”, adding that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority couldn’t “block YouTube for all of Pakistan each time Imran Khan is addressing a rally”.
“This is unconstitutional censorship which has no basis under law. Stop making a joke of the Constitution and treating the country like a video game,” he tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet, he said: “Welcome to digital martial law in Pakistan, where YouTube gets blocked each time a person that the establishment doesn’t like is speaking and their speech is live-streamed.”
He said this was “unacceptable paternalistic censorship” that undermined constitutional rights.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) secretary general Farhatullah Babar, reacting to a tweet regarding the disruption, shared his reservations over such moves, saying: “A man may be imprisoned but not an idea.”
A similar incident occurred on August 21 on the night of Imran’s address to a party rally in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh. NetBlocks had confirmed that disruption as well.
“Real-time network data show the disruption in effect on some but not all mobile and fixed-line internet providers in Pakistan during the live-streamed speech. Access was restored after the speech concluded. The study is taken from a sample size of 100 measurements from 14 vantage points across Pakistan,” NetBlocks had said in a report.