ISLAMABAD (SPECIAL REPORT)
One year complete You tube ban in Pakistan.The ban was imposed in September 2012 following violent protests in the country and around the world over an anti-Islam video on the website. Pakistan Telecom Authority imposed ban in mid of September 2012.
YouTube was unblocked on 29 December following government work on a filtering system designed to stop people seeing blasphemous material.
However, when the filter proved ineffective the Pakistan government re-imposed its blanket ban on the site.
The September block followed the publicity around a translated version of a video called Innocence of Muslims that sparked protests over its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed. The original version of the amateur film was put on YouTube in July.
In Pakistan protests over the film led to 20 deaths and caused significant damage in many cities.
Many Pakistanis had lodged complaints about the ban on YouTube because it also affected use of Google’s Android mobile phone services.
Minutes after YouTube was lifted influential media commentators found that it was still possible to watch Innocence of Muslims and other blasphemous material on the site, reported the New York Times. In response, the prime minister ordered ISPs to reinstate the block.
The measure was imposed to block videos that Muslims took as insulting and blasphemous. But the unintended consequence has been frustration for many companies, educators and students. A petition to end Internet censorship is before a Pakistani court, and a debate has been rekindled over how to reconcile the right to a free flow of information with a widespread public sentiment that Islam needs special protections.
While the tech-savvy have ways to get around the ban, the vast majority of Pakistanis who try to view YouTube get this: “Surf Safely! … The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan.”
The made-in-America trailer for “Innocence of Muslims,” the movie of which has never reached cinemas, provoked uproar throughout the Muslim world, and several U.S. diplomatic missions were targeted. In Pakistan, clashes between police and protesters left 19 people dead.
YouTube as well as Facebook were initially blocked although the government soon exempted Facebook, saying it removed the offensive material. At the time, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration asked Google, YouTube’s parent, to take down the video. But the company refused, saying the trailer didn’t violate its content standards.
The only other countries that block YouTube are Tajikistan, China and Iran, according to Google’s transparency report that tracks restrictions of its products. Another 56 countries have localized versions of YouTube that allow for tailoring content to local standards.
Pakistan, a nation of roughly 180 million, has a democratically elected government and a legal system inherited from its former British rulers. But that system also contains significant religious strictures, and disputes over religion frequently end in bloodshed. So at the time the YouTube ban was imposed, many saw it as a necessary calming measure.
At the organization’s Islamabad offices, activists say the YouTube case is just the latest example. Over the years the government has periodically banned Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, but the YouTube ban has lasted the longest.
A committee of officials from various ministries is looking for solutions and will make the decision on whether to unblock YouTube. But experts aren’t sure a technical solution even exists, and Bytes for All and others say that even if the government comes up with a filtering mechanism, they will continue to resist it as censorship.
Kamran Ali, a spokesman for the Ministry of Internet Technology, acknowledged that the ban can be a hardship but said the government must weigh freedom of information against offending the public.
“It’s a Muslim country, and this video clearly violates the religious sentiments of the people of Pakistan,” he said.