The Peshawar High Court (PHC) was told here on Thursday that the government has decided to continue blocking the YouTube in the country out of respect for public sentiments and also due to non-availability of technical solution to block 100 percent any blasphemous content.
The Ministry of Information and Technology in its reply submitted to the PHC through Additional Secretary Muhammad Ijaz Mian stated that the government’s decision to block the YouTube was reviewed by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for the web evaluation on February 8, 2013.
“The committee noted that the situation did not change due to policy constraints of YouTube, sentiments of people of Pakistan and non-availability of technical solution to block 100 percent blasphemous content. Hence, the IMC unanimously decided to continue blocking the website,” it was stated in the reply.
The ministry also stated that it had issued policy directive to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for finding a state-of-the-art technical solution for proactively and independently blocking websites displaying blasphemous and pornographic content. However, it said the PTA is yet to implement the said policy directive.
As an immediate remedial action, the ministry had made an emergency request to administration of the Facebook and YouTube to ban the said objectionable content on their websites. It said that in response to the government of Pakistan’s request, the Facebook management removed the objectionable content and restricted the access and uploading of the blasphemous video titled “Innocence of Muslims.”
However, it said the management of Google Inc did not remove the objectionable content from YouTube as it was of the view that YouTube website was offering services to viewers in Pakistan through the United States of America via universal “com” domain.
They added that the YouTube complies with widely recognised principles of International Law conforming to the US laws and as such it is under no obligation to comply with Pakistan-specific content removal requests where YouTube incorporation is localised along with provision of intermediately legal protection from the Pakistan government through promulgation of suitable legislation.
It said the government of Pakistan is simultaneously pursuing the case with the US administration through diplomatic channels and in this regard the former federal minister for IT Dr Sania Nishtar personally met the US Ambassador in Pakistan.
The ministry said the option of creating a localised web portal of YouTube i.e. www.youtube.com.pk is also being considered. Google Inc had demanded the availability of intermediately legal protection legislation in operation. In this regard, the Ministry of IT along with relevant stakeholders is working on prevention of Electronic Crime Bill, 2013 to be placed before the parliament after due process.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Information Technology and PTA submitted their replies to a division bench comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Malik Manzoor Hussain. Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Muhammad Iqbal Mohmand appeared for the federal government in the writ petition filed for unblocking the YouTube website in Pakistan.
The bench directed the petitioner to file rejoinder to the replies submitted by the ministry and PTA before the next hearing.
A senior lawyer Mian Mohibullah Kakakhel had challenged the blocking of the whole YouTube. He mentioned that authorities concerned, i.e PTA and Ministry of Information Technology had failed to block the specific URLs that contained blasphemous content, adding that blocking the whole website is not a solution.
The petitioner believed that YouTube contains countless useful videos that cannot be found on any other resource.
He said the nature of videos available on YouTube include topics such as history, culture and religious importance besides music, sports, movies, news, animal planets, cartoons for kids and sermons of Islamic scholars.