Pakistani Citizens Demand an End to Internet Censorship and Intimidation


May 30, 2010

On Wednesday 19th May 2010, the Lahore High Court ordered the banning of Facebook across Pakistan. Facebook, a widely used social media network, has over 500 million active subscribers, globally. In Pakistan, over 2.5 million people use Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family, conduct business, philanthropic campaigns, manage events, and share photos, news, and other content. Some weeks ago, a user of Facebook created a page called “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”, asking other users to submit drawings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on 20th May 2010. The contents of this page have been considered blasphemous, resulting in a nationwide ban on the entire Facebook domain, instead of just the Facebook page itself. Between the 20th and 22nd May 2010, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked access to over 600 websites. We condemn all content on the Internet that is abusive and disrespectful of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). However, we also strongly condemn the blanket ban on Facebook and the blockage of other websites. Every citizen has an inalienable right to information and by banning countless websites, Pakistanis have been denied the right to communicate and interact with each other and the rest of the world and their access to information has been curtailed. The blanket ban on Facebook and other websites has also had a very negative impact on Pakistan as countless small businesses, nonprofit organizations, universities, students, volunteer groups, restaurants, art galleries, magazines, and media outlets use Facebook to conduct research, gain knowledge, operate businesses, and share information with their stakeholders. More importantly, Pakistanis have been denied the right to protest and express their condemnation of hateful and offensive content on the Internet as the very platforms that were, in fact, being used for dialogue and counter-argument, have been banned. On Thursday 20th May 2010, a few members of civil society gathered at the Karachi Press Club to peacefully voice their opinion on the ban. Members of the press turned unruly and started threatening the citizens with contempt of court and blasphemy and labelled them as non-Muslims. A conglomeration of political groups were protesting outside the gates of the Press Club in support of the ban on Facebook. Some journalists attending the press conference informed the protesters about the viewpoint of the members of civil society, resulting in graver threats of violence. All the civil society members present at the Press Club managed to escape narrowly, after some verbal harassment as well as physical jostling. Article 19 of the Pakistan Constitution guarantees every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, 1[commission of] or incitement to an offence. Pakistani Citizens Against Internet Censorship and Intimidation have not violated the Constitution of Pakistan or committed blasphemy in any way as they have never shown any disrespect towards Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In fact, they have repeatedly condemned offensive and hateful content against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on Facebook before it was banned, on websites that have not been banned, on electronic media, as well as in print media. Our Demands 1. The right to freely express our opinions without fear of threats and violence 2. An end to Internet Censorship and en-masse banning of websites

Endorsed By

1. Uks Research Centre-Islamabad – Tasneem Ahmer, Director

2. Shirkat Gah – Women’s Resource Centre – Fauzia Viqar

3. Aamir Raza Memon – Center for Peace & Civil Society

4. Pakistan ICT Policy Monitors Network

5. Bytes for All, Pakistan

6. Digital Rights Institute, Pakistan

7. PeaceNiche, Karachi 8. I.A. Rehman – Human Rights Activist 9. SAFMA

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14 thoughts on “Pakistani Citizens Demand an End to Internet Censorship and Intimidation

  1. Well I will have to disagree with this post here, the PTA gone bit over the limit on few things but the blanket ban on Facebook was in my opinion correct step.

    Banning a single page would have meant that they are preventing the Pakistanis from looking at that violent content. But the reason behind the ban was to show no tolerance for the religious racism.

    Religious racism by the Facebook runners, who didn’t removed that violent page despite hundreds of thousands of requests. Normally they remove any of such page on just 700 requests.

    But when they realized that their traffic and rank is in threat they did that. Even though facebook traffic form Pakistan is small %age but it matters in determining website’s world rank etc.

    Its better they have removed the page, otherwise at least I was in favor of continuity of ban.

  2. Dear Ms Sana,

    I read your latest column in Dawn about mass murder of Ahmadis. Surelyy, you are one of the few Conscience keepers of Pakistan. Great heart –
    May God bless you.

    Love
    Sid

  3. Sana you keep on writing on and on about FB, which just targets only 2-3 million people of Pakistan, why not write about some real issues of Pakistan like poverty? inflation? which effects 90% of us. You’ve got good writing skills and research so why not try out some core issues of this nation?

  4. When it was the age of research and media, these idiots banned printing calling it a “work of the DEVIL” and now when its the age of computer and internet, this is the “new DEVIL !!”

    When a mans dukaan is his religion, he tends to sell it for more profit.

  5. When a page regarding holocaust was created, it was removed within 15 minutes, with the Client Support representative saying that it was against Facebook rules and regulations someone doing anything that spreads hatred and hurts someone’s religious beliefs..
    Then where these people were when millions reported that offensive page..and no one responded.
    It clearly showed the BIASED Behavior of FACEBOOK against Muslims .. Hence, being a Software Engineer and a muslim, I de-activated my account because seriously, i don’t wana profit them with any penny.

    @ Author: Please have some sense of dignity and morality.. We wana use facebook because “we” were addicted to that system..”Tell the truth..that’s the reason’..

    ..and We all know how many people access facebook for “Knowledge” …

  6. Ban on Facebook and YouTube in Pakistan can open a path to more radical control on civil liberty. The balance between radicals and progressive Pakistanis seems to be tipping in favour of fundamentalists. Artists, writers and journalists with liberal views are not only helpless but vulnerable. Astonishingly no other Islamic country in Middle East or elsewhere seems to bother giving publicity to groups of eccentrics trying to cause unrest. The ban in Pakistan gave tremendous publicity to the Facebook page- “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”.
    I hope this question does not end here. This may ultimately lead to talibanisation of press and electronic media causing more hatred and alienation.

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