Internet Freedom: Pakistan Stands in the List of ‘Partly Free’

Freedomhouse has published it’s annual report consisting of the level of the freedom different countries have on the internet. For those who are unaware, freedom house is a non-governmental organization that published reports showing the level of democratic freedom in different countries.

Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights. It publishes an annual report assessing the degree of perceived democratic freedoms in each country, which is used in political science research.  (Wikipedia)

A study done under the name of “Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media” was carried out in 37 countries of the world, including Pakistan and showed the stats regarding the level of freedom each country has over the internet.

Pakistan stands in the category of Partly Free out of the following three categories.

  • Total Free
  • Not Free
  • Partly Free

Pakistan stood eligible for this title because of the bans government implemented on different portals consisting of the video-sharing website YouTube, the photo-sharing application Flickr, twitter and the social-networking tool Facebook alongwith partial ban on different sites and other links as well.

As per report, the first incident of blocking occurred at the end of February 2006 when the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued instructions to all internet-service providers (ISPs) in Pakistan to block any website displaying the controversial cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad that had been published in a Danish newspaper. The block particularly focused on Google and Blogspot ban ban. The ban continued for approximately two months.

More recently, upon orders from the Lahore High Court, the PTA, using the pretext of limiting the circulation of blasphemous content, instituted an extensive blockage of internet content from May 19 to 31, 2010.

The heightened restrictions were in response to the creation of a “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” contest on Facebook and a legal appeal initiated by a relatively unknown organization called the Islamic Lawyers Movement. The ban resulted in the blocking of 10,548 websites and critical information sources like YouTube, Flickr, the user generated online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and more.

Mobile-phone providers also halted Blackberry services, at first completely, but then only web-browsing functions.

FreedomHouse report on Pakistan states that in Pakistan, with a population of 184.4 million, the internet penetration is only 11 %. Which has faced blockage on web 2.0 applications as well as substantial political censorship. Whereas no bloggers/online users have  been arrested ever in this regard.

In the worldwide report, Estonia tops the list with maximum internet freedom followed by United States.

Iran stands first in observing maximum blockage/censorship in the country where government had taken strong steps to implement the restrictions.

Amongst the list of 37 countries examined for internet freedom, only 8 countries got the title of Totally Free whereas 11 stood in the list of Not Free, while the remaining ones including Pakistan(with 55 points) are Partly Free.

Complete score table can be downloaded here.