Internet Censorship in Pakistan

internet website blocking



26th June
2010
  

Updated: Most of the Internet is Considered Sacrilegious...

Pakistan High Court bans 9 major internet websites

Pakistan's High Court has banned nine leading websites in response to allegations that the websites were posting blasphemous material.

It also directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to make sure that the websites are immediately blocked.

The nine websites targeted in the court order include Google, Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, YouTube, Bing, In the Name of Allah and Amazon.

A petition filed by a citizen, Muhammad Sidiq, claimed that the websites were publishing and promoting sacrilegious material while twisting facts about the Quran.

Justice Mazher Iqbal Sidhu, of the Bahawalpur bench of the high court, also ordered the PTA chairman to appear in court on Monday with all relevant documents in this case

The Bahawalpur legal fraternity has decided to observe a day's strike in support of the historic court decision as well as to protest against the websites.

PTA officials maintain that they have received no instructions to block the websites. They had heard of the court decision only through media reports.

Update: Major websites restored but will be checked for blasphemy

26th June 2010. Based on article from  news.bbc.co.uk

  Blasphemy on Amazon!

Pakistan will start monitoring seven major websites, including Google and Yahoo, for content it deems offensive to Muslims. YouTube, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail and Bing will also come under scrutiny, while 17 less well-known sites will be blocked.

Officials will monitor the sites and block links deemed inappropriate. The new action will see Pakistani authorities monitor content published on the seven sites, blocking individual pages if content is judged to be offensive.

Telecoms official Khurram Mehran said links would be blocked without disturbing the main website.

 

25th June
2011
  

Updated: Worth An Ask...

One man and his dog petition the Lahore High Court to end all internet porn

A local citizen, Sohaib Ahmad, has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) requesting to direct the telecommunications minister to control circulation of obscene literature on Internet.

The petitioner's counsel, Fahad Ahmad Siddiqui, stated that the popularisation of Internet by the government was a welcome step as it gave easy excess to information. However, he said that for the youth the path was full of dangers, as they had to browse through junk e-mails that lured them towards websites containing obscene material. It was very difficult to contain the rain of smut on the Internet and protect children from it, the petitioner said.

Siddiqui said that being an Islamic state, Pakistan's constitution laid down the principle that the government had to take steps to enable Muslims to live their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam.

He stated that it was undertaken in the constitution that the state shall take necessary steps for social justice, eradication of social evils and shall prevent prostitution, gambling, use of injurious drugs, printing, publication, circulation and display of obscene literature and advertisements.

He requested that directions be issued to the Ministry of Telecommunications to place a permanent ban on the circulation and display of obscene literature and advertisements on Internet, urging that they should be permanently blocked or banned in Pakistan for displaying pornographic material.

Update: Court passes on request to ban internet porn

25th June 2011.  See  article from  indianexpress.com

A court has issued notices to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Religious Affairs Ministry to respond to a writ petition seeking a permanent ban on access to pornographic websites .

Taking up a petition filed by a man named Sohaib Ahmad, Lahore High Court Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmed Khan directed the respondents to file their replies within a month.

Fahad Ahmad Siddiqui, the lawyer representing Ahmad, sought the ban on pornographic websites by saying that the state religion of Pakistan is Islam and it has been undertaken in the Constitution that steps shall be taken to enable Muslims of the country to make their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam .

Siddiqui said the Constitution made it clear that state would take necessary steps for social justice and eradication of social evils and prevent prostitution, gambling and taking of injurious drugs, printing, publication, circulation and display of obscene literature and advertisements .

Siddiqui had requested the court to ban the circulation and display of obscene literature and advertisements through these websites, which must be permanently blocked. He asked the court to direct the government to draft a regulation to monitor cyber porn traffic in the country.

 

30th August
2011
  

Update: Virtually Repressive...

Pakistan bans VPNs
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been banned in Pakistan.

According to a report in the Times of India, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued a directive to all the ISPs in the country to disable any technology that aids private browsing.

It has also been noticed that the PTA, apart from the VPN block has been blocking several websites, too. Turns out that the Rolling Stone website has been blocked in Pakistan, probably because it shared an IP address with a banned site and the ISP could not deactivate a single URL.

 

20th September
2011
  

Update: Losing Facebook...

Pakistan high court orders blocking of Facebook in a long running reaction to the Mohammed cartoons

The Lahore High Court has ordered Pakistan's Ministry of Information and Technology to block access to all websites in Pakistan especially American social networking website Facebook, spreading religious hatred on internet and to submit a compliance report by October 6.

The judge, however, made it clear that no search engine including Google would be blocked.

The court issued this order while hearing a petition seeking a permanent ban on the access to American social networking website Facebook for hosting competition featuring supposedly blasphemous caricatures of Mohammed.

Muhammad & Ahmad, a 'public interest' litigation firm, filed this petition for a permanent ban on access to Facebook for hosting a fresh blasphemous caricature drawing contest world over under a title 2nd Annual Draw Muhammad Day-May 20, 2011 . The petitioner pointed out that Islamic values are being derogated in the name of information that is hurting feeling of billions of Muslims. He said despite order of the court, ministry of information technology did not block websites spreading religious hatred.

 

24th January
2012
  

Update: Even More Miserable...

Pakistan starts blocking porn websites

Pakistan has begun to implement a long threatened block on internet porn.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has provided a list to the ISP's in Pakistan to block the frequently accessed adult sites. It is believed that more web pages will be added to the initial banned list of 1,000 websites and as many as 170,000 websites may be banned in the near future.

The currently blocked websites redirects the users to a new page with the following error message, This page is blocked due to restrictions enforced by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) .

 

10th February
2012
  

Update: Scratching the Surface...

Pakistan blocks 13,000 porn sites

Pakistan has blocked 13,000 supposedly obscene Web sites and are taking additional steps to prevent the spread of such materials across the Internet.

The Times of India reported on Friday that Parliamentary Secretary for Information Technology Nawab Liaqat Ali Khan had made the remark, calling it a serious issue that the government is trying to address at the moment.

He went on to express concern at the rapid spread of obscene Web sites and admitted the government had no mechanism to block these sites, but pointed out a ministerial committee and a sub-committee had been formed to look into this matter, the report stated.

 

22nd March
2012
  

Updated: Blocking to Excess...

Pakistan orders up internet censorship system that can block 50 million URLs

Last month, Pakistan's government put out requests for proposals for a massive, centralized, Internet censorship system. Explaining that ISPs and backbone providers have expressed their inability to block millions of undesirable web sites using current manual blocking systems, the state-run National Information Communications Technology Research and Development Fund said it therefore requires a national URL filtering and blocking system.

The new system would need to handle up to 50 million [blacklisted] URLs, and would operate across the entire Pakistani Internet.

The research fund intends the system to be designed and built within the country, by companies, vendors, academia and/or research organizations with proven track record.

Fifty million URLs is quite a tall order, but not, sadly, for the demands of an Internet censorware device. Censorship, managed by routers and software built by a number of companies, scales rather easily to such demands. Companies like McAfee sell blocking systems for corporate intranets with databases in excess of 25 million web addresses. Such databases have been re-purposed for national firewalls in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for many years.

Update: Order Cancelled?

22nd March 2012. See  article from  publicaffairs.linx.net
See also Netizen Report: Resistance Edition  from  advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org
See also Index on Censorship joins a global coalition of NGO’s to call for the withdrawal of censorship plans in Pakistan from  indexoncensorship.org

The Pakistan Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) is to withdraw plans to install a national level URL Filtering and Blocking System , according to the Express Tribune.

Secretary IT Farooq Ahmed Awan was reported to have said that the URL project has been withdrawn due to the concern shown by various stakeholders.

The MoIT has yet to confirm the reports.

 

30th April
2012
  

Update: Illegal Blocking...

Court rules that Pakistan's website blocking is illegal as it does not comply with the laws of the land

Reporters Without Borders has welcomed the ruling that the high court of the southeastern province of Sindh issued in response to a joint petition on 17 April by Bolo Bhi, a Pakistani civil rights group, and other human rights activists in a bid to stop illegal website censorship by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

According to a Bolo Bhi press release, the petition asked the court to ensure that no website was blocked, censored or restricted in violation of Pakistan's Constitution.

After examining the petition, the high court served notice on the federal government and ordered the PTA not to block any website except in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Telecommunication Act of 1996. This law regulates the PTA's control of telecommunications networks and requires, inter alia, that this control be exercised in a fair and transparent manner.

The high court's ruling, if respected, would make it impossible for the government to introduce any nationwide website filtering system.

 

 

Updated: Censorship Extremism...

Pakistan winds up internet users by temporarily banning Twitter over a couple of supposedly offensive posts


Link Here 22nd May 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

Pakistan's government blocked the popular social networking website Twitter after material considered 'offensive' to Islam was posted on the site.

Mohammed Yaseen, the head of Pakistan's telecommunications body, said Twitter refused to remove material referring to a group on Facebook in which users post images of the religious character Muhammed.

The ban was lifted eight hours later. Interior Minister Rehman Malik wrote on Twitter itself to reveal that prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had lifted the ban. Malik tweeted:

I spoke to PM and informed how people are feeling about it. PM ordered to reopen the Twitter.

Husain Haqqani, the previous Pakistani ambassador to the UN, wrote on the website:

Ban on any form of free expression has no place in a democracy. If some1 offends, bar offender instead of banning medium.

Update: Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

22nd May 2012. See  article from  tgdaily.com

Pakistan once again blocked access to Twitter over the weekend because of concerns over blasphemy. Apparently the block related to the Draw Mohammed Day Facebook page, this time apparently because people were tweeting about it.

Two years ago, Pakistan blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites after a competition page was created calling on users to draw the religious character Mohammed. A year later, there was another short-lived block on the anniversary of the original competition.

Thousands of users went online to protest what they saw as a pointless and ineffective ban that actually drew attention to what it was supposed to block.

 

 

A Helluva Read...

'Research' from the religious university Brigham Young finds that adolescent literature contains strong language


Link Here 22nd May 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

A Helluva Read : Profanity in Adolescent Literature

Abstract:

Although the use of profanity has been examined in a number of types of media, to our knowledge profanity has not been examined in adolescent literature. Thus, the frequency and portrayal of profanity was coded in 40 bestselling adolescent novels.

Results revealed that some novels did not contain a single instance of profanity, whereas others contained hundreds of often very strong profanity.

When profanity was used, characters were likely to be young, rich, attractive, and of pronounced social status.

Novels directed at older adolescents contained much more profanity. However, age guidance or content warnings are not found on the books themselves.

Discussion is provided regarding the implications of the findings and the appropriateness of including content warnings in adolescent literature.

Offsite Comment: Our swear words have been devalued by overuse -- but not because teenagers are reading too many profane books

22nd May 2012. See  article from  blogs.telegraph.co.uk

Apparently experts (unidentified, as experts so often are) have estimated that American youths use an average of ninety swear words a day. This makes them seem quite restrained as anyone who has stood at a bus-stop with a collection of British teenagers can testify -- only ninety times a day? On the other hand there are parents of adolescents who will be surprised to learn that their offspring are capable of articulating or muttering as many as ninety words of any kind in the course of a day.

To my mind it's unlikely that all these foul-mouthed adolescents have learned the habit from books, since many of them never open one.

...Read the full article

 

 

Update: Freedom of Information Blocked...

Pakistan's governments orders ISPs to block all porn and supposed blasphemy


Link Here 4th September 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

Pakistan's government has issued a key policy directive to block all blasphemous and pornographic material on the internet by installing an effective modern blocking system.

Following the personal interest shown by the incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and after consulting President Asif Ali Zardari, the Ministry of Information Technology has already issued directions to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to update the system for effective monitoring and control of supposedly blasphemous and pornographic material.

Pervaiz Ashraf had initiated the move a few months back as minister for information technology and after having been shown supposedly blasphemous material that is freely available to internet users in Pakistan because of non-availability of blocking systems.

The policy directive has been drafted cautiously to ensure that the move does neither affect the freedom of information in any manner nor allows the authorities to misuse the facility beyond the mandated goal of blocking only blasphemous and pornographic material. Just like Pakistan doesn't allow the misuse of its blasphemy laws.

The dictate requires:

PTA to establish at the earliest a dedicated unit while allocating appropriate funds/budget and human resources, supported by the state of the art technical solutions and upgraded call centre, with the mandate to take requisite measures for proactively and independently blocking the websites displaying the blasphemous and pornographic content.

Update: Monitoring team

15th September 2012. See  article from  onlinenews.com.pk

Pakistan will set up a monitoring team focusing on supposedly detrimental material to Islam and obscene material being released on the internet and being replicated in Pakistan. All anti Islamic sites would be fully monitored round the clock and remedial actions would be taken.

The decision was taken at a high level meeting chaired by Federal Minister for Interior, Senator Rehman Malik and attended by Federal Secretary Interior, Secretary Information Technology, Chairman PTA, Additional Secretary Ministry of Interior, Director FIA and other senior officers of the two ministries.

 

 

Update: YouTurn...

Pakistan's prime ministers orders the re-blocking of YouTube


Link Here 30th December 2012
Full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

Pakistan pulled the plug again on YouTube just hours after unblocking the site following a months-long blackout. The order for the censorship came directly from Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

Previously Ashraf in September had ordered YouTube blocked after it refused to remove the anti-Islam video. Innocence of Muslims.

Earlier on Saturday the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) notified all Internet companies to immediately unblock/restore YouTube until further notice. Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said earlier said on Twitter that the decision to allow access again was due to huge public demand.

But hours later Ashraf, after officials had said measures were being taken to filter out blasphemous material and pornography, ordered PTA to cut access. The prime minister has issued orders to block YouTube again, a senior official in Ashraf's office told AFP,.

The privately run Geo television network reported that Ashraf issued the orders to block YouTube after it showed a report saying blasphemous content was still accessible.

Update: Blocking continues

6th July 2013. See  article from  computerworld.com

A court in Pakistan has ordered a continuation of the block on YouTube in the country, after the government argued that a removal of the ban would have implications on law and order in the country.

YouTube was banned in Pakistan in September over a controversial video clip, called Innocence of Muslims , which mocked the religious character Muhammad. The country's telecom regulator said it was blocking the entire site as it was not able to separately block individual URLs (uniform resource locators) linking to copies of the video.

The plaintiff, Bytes For All, Pakistan, has argued that the PTA has Internet filtering technology that can now be used to selectively block individual pages.

Bytes for All had asked the court for an interim order unblocking YouTube. We wanted the government to go ahead and block the 700 to 800 URLs with the blasphemous content, and remove the block on the rest of the site.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Lahore High Court noted that the ban on YouTube is negatively impacting citizens, specially students, and asked the government to resolve the issue with information technology experts, and submit a report by July 25 on how to deal with the blasphemous URLs and make the rest of the platform available, Ahmad said.

 

 

Update: The Great Firewall of Pakistan...

Pakistan considers what to do with an expensive new internet censorship toy bought in from China


Link Here 3rd January 2013
Full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of Information Technology are debating how to use a new system to censor websites and their contents.

The system is being imported from China and is expected to control internet traffic and activities across the country as per PTA policies.

PTA have been holding consultations over this new project with other parties interested in censorship including the Ministry of Interior, the Armed Forces of Pakistan, various intelligence agencies and NTSC.

Sources privy to the Ministry for Information Technology told Pakistan Today that the ministry had a few reservations regarding the system, its capabilities and above all its massive cost.

According to details about the project, a central point would be established by PTA from where all internet traffic inside the country would flow and supposedly objectionable content and pornographic websites would be blocked from there. Under the new mechanism, URL filtering software worth $ 5 million would also be installed at four landing stations of submarine cable which would control internet content on mobile phones as well.

According to media reports, various objections are being raised by groups who contend that, emails, mobile phone internet traffic and mobile phone calls would then be monitored by the government.

PTA Chairman Farooq Ahmed Khan denied such surveillance but confirmed that in the next 60 days a new mechanism for blocking un-Islamic, pornographic and blasphemous material from websites will be activated.

 

 

 

Update: Can't Live With It, Can't Live Without It...

Pakistan's internet censors come to blows over the continued blocking of YouTube


Link Here 23rd July 2013
Full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking