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YouTube blockade


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WHAT began as an outrageous situation and was expected to be resolved promptly is starting to feel uncomfortably as though it might become a permanent bar on citizens’ rights to access the internet — and that too because of governmental apathy. In September, cowed by the havoc wreaked in Islamabad by rioters protesting against the availability on YouTube of an offensive film trailer, the government cut off total access to the site. The indignant citizenry required an answer, so we were told that Google, the giant that owns and operates YouTube, had been approached with a request that the offensive content be taken down, but had refused. Since Pakistan was not in a position to manually restrict access to offensive sites, the government explained it had no choice other than to entirely restrict access to YouTube. It was meanwhile generally known that some other countries, including Egypt and India, had managed to have access to the offensive content selectively curtailed, leaving the rest of YouTube open.

Four months later, it has become clear that as is often the case, at fault is not the other party but the government of Pakistan. As reported by this newspaper yesterday, what this country does not have in place is a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the US under which, amongst other matters, an internet company could be directed to comply with the laws of another country. Had this paperwork been in order, for Pakistanis, too, access to only the objectionable content could have been restricted. Worse, there seems to be hardly any concern or movement on part of the relevant administrative quarters to set into motion the process of signing a MLAT with the US — even though, according to the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan, the treaty could be negotiated and signed within a couple of months if the Ministry of Information Technology pursued the matter.

The film and the offence it caused have long since faded from public consciousness but the lack of access to a popular site used for dozens of different purposes is a daily — and unnecessary — inconvenience. More importantly, it is a bar on our civil liberties. The government needs to immediately do what is required to restore Pakistanis’ full access to the internet. Further, it must get its house in order and ensure that in all areas, the paperwork is ready and available. On Saturday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik promised once again that YouTube access would be restored within a week, after the installation of filtration software. We hope that this time he can make it happen, and permanently.

Comments (7) Closed

Vatsyayan Jan 29, 2013 09:40am
You people are seriously 20-30 years behind India. You need to develop Internet police also which India has done long back. Internet immoral trafficking is a serious offence in India
AHA Jan 29, 2013 12:04pm
I both agree and disagree with you. So I abstained from 'thumbing' your comment. The Blasphemy law is cruel, and highly manipulative, and it is trying to protect someone Who does not need any protection (or does He???). But YouTube is a source of information and knowledge. How can a people survive without it in these times. We will be left further behind without YouTube. 'Unban' it immediately.
peddarowdy Jan 29, 2013 07:42am
Death Humans for Blasphemy, ban for Websites for Blasphemy. Ban on Youtube be lifted BEFORE people are released from jail after conviction of Blasphemy? Is that fair? The value of a Human Life is even lesser than a website? I don't recall a piece asking for people accused of blasphemy to be released or blasphemy law to be repealed. But, strangely YouTube, which refused to take out blasphemous material, is asked to be unbanned.
raika45 Jan 29, 2013 02:18pm
What actually is blasphemy? Other religions make fun of their system and nobody goes around asking for their death.The reason is they are secure in their system. Are you Muslims? A little bit out of order of your so called religion and KILL the trouble creator..Why are you muslims so insecure of your religion? Is Islam a religion of peace or one of compulsion? What is wrong with you muslims?
A.R.Shams Jan 29, 2013 03:27pm
There should be reasonable strategic manner applied to ban on technological progress, otherwise, the nation would be left backward in the progressive world.
gp65 Jan 29, 2013 04:55pm
The issue about India, Egypt, KSA, Brazil and Indonesia is different from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afhganistan. In the first group of countries youtube has a county specific implementation. It is from the country specific implementation that the video was removed. The second group of countries does not have a country specific implementation and directly access the youtube version available in USA. Since this movie did not violate any US laws, google refused to remove the video from the US version of youtube. Separately I do not understand the recommendation to unban youtube while still preserving the blasphemy law. If you can keep Asia bibi in jail for blasphemy because blasphemy is so offensive to Pakistanis, why then should you unblock youtube? Either blasphemy offends you or it does not. If it does not offend you, free Asia bibi and take the law of your statutes. If it does offend you, there is no rationale to unblock youtube.
Jawwad Jan 29, 2013 06:24pm
Name a thing that is done right in Pakistan? Gee I wonder if babies also come out legs first?