End to Unjustified Cyber Censorship Demanded

There should be a list, publicly available on PTA website, of the banned websites in Pakistan along with the reason of the ban. Along with, there should also be a procedure to review the decisions of blocking such websites.

This was demanded by Press United to Serve Humanity (PUSH), a Pakistan-based non-profit, non-governmental, and non-sectarian consortium of journalists working for the freedom of press and protection of human rights, in the context of the call by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to observe March 12 as “World Day against Cyber Censorship”.

Situation in Pakistan is very strange where any website can be blocked by Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) without telling any reason or communicating with the webmaster.

With a recently-issued regulation, on direction of Government of Pakistan, PTA can block access to internet or any single URL without mentioning the reason for the ban, having said that, we don’t have any rules for banning or for allowing a website. This is really funny and looks like you are to appearing for an exam with no books to study, while examiner will use his/her will to pass it.

Regulation aimed at National Security Concerns, is feared to be used by politicians for their own benefits, for instance, a Youtube video was recently banned in Pakistan that showed President Zardari’s speech in Lahore.

Last year, the PTA blocked links to a video alleging the misuse of power by Naval Chief who was shown as alleged land grabber. Whereas in February 2008 elections, Youtube website which hosts a video clip that showed election rigging by a major political party, was blocked in Pakistan but according to PTA the ban was  because of the number of “non-Islamic objectionable videos” hosted there .

The webmaster of the ‘Make Pakistan Better’ website also reported that the PTA has directed that the site be blocked on an Internet Protocol level. The webmaster alleges that the site has been blocked for hosting anti-government content, though the PTA has cited no reason for the clampdown.

The official order for blocking the website issued by Director General Enforcement of PTA is also circulated on the cyber space.

PUSH Pakistan, while quoting the Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” condemns this unjustified censor policy adopted by the telecom authority. PUSH has a clear stance that such censorship on the internet access mounts to curbing online free expression and it is actually another form of suppressing the media and freedom.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK