Should Ban on YouTube stay?
By Mohammad Jamil
Minister of Information Technology is taking measures to lift ban on the YouTube. On August 22, State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman revealed during a briefing that Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) had helped to provide filters through which over 4,000 URLs containing blasphemous content were blocked. But the nation has been listening to this cock and bull story for the last one year. YouTube was banned in Pakistan in September 2012 after a blasphemous video titled “Innocence of Muslims” was uploaded on it, and Muslims all over the world protested against it. A petition was filed with the Lahore High Court challenging the ban on the YouTube. It was outrageous that the Google then uploaded Part-2 of the same movie on YouTube, which was more derogatory and blasphemous in nature. In this backdrop, opening of YouTube with the present content is likely to create law and order and security issues.
On 21st September 2012, at least 23 people were dead in Karachi alone when thousands of protesters thronged the streets. In Peshawar, five people including a policeman were killed. Eight cinemas in Karachi and Peshawar, many banks and shops and a church in Mardan were attacked by the protestors. The film had sparked protests across the Middle East and was even thought to have caused the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. In Pakistan, before May 11 elections, caretaker Minister for IT was in favour of lifting the ban, and there was a rumour that the ban on YouTube in Pakistan would be lifted. According to a report, Google administration had approached the Ministry of Information Technology and expressed willingness to permanently block the blasphemous content on the website. Earlier, the Google administration owing to absence of necessary laws and agreements between Pakistan and US declined the request to remove the blasphemous matter from the website.
Sources in Ministry of Information Technology had said that the ministry took up the matter with the US at diplomatic level and eventually succeeded in convincing the Google administration. The Supreme Court had also directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulation Authority (PEMRA) and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to block blasphemous content on a social media website. Last November the committee had suggested in its report, which was placed before the then prime minister that the ban on YouTube in Pakistan should continue until Google Inc., agreed to remove the controversial video voluntarily. The Google had then refused to remove the controversial video. An official from the legal department of Information Technology ministry had said that Google Inc., the owner of YouTube, has been engaged in progressive talks recently and expected a breakthrough soon. He said the website was being urged to at least block the video in Pakistan if they could not altogether remove it from the website.
Following the ban, an inter-ministerial committee comprising representatives from IT ministry, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), religious affairs ministry, intelligence agencies and other stakeholders was formed to look into the issue and suggest a solution. The legal way of getting Google Inc., to agree to remove the blasphemous video was to file a formal request for which there needed to be Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between United States and Pakistan. However, the treaty was not initiated from Pakistani foreign office administration as it was a lengthy process. The problem is that about half of the Internet users in country have found ways to unblock YouTube and other thousands of blocked porn sites, which had also been blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Before banning of YouTube, the links of the objectionable video were blocked by PTA, but to no avail, as the anti-Islam elements were uploading the blasphemous movie again and again. YouTube still contains clippings uploaded by anti-state elements with a view to stirring sectarian hatred, vulgarity and clippings of beheadings of Muslims/members of Armed Forces of Pakistan. The decision of blocking YouTube was also in line with the Honorable Supreme Court directives and observations, and orders of the then Prime Minister in the larger national interest.
There is demand from various sections of society that ban on the YouTube should stay until Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and technical measures like deployment of an effective URL blocking system are in place. Muslim Ummah should work in unison on a strategy to stop the West from acts of blasphemy that hurt the feelings and sentiments of more than 1.62 billion Muslims, which make one-fourth of the world population. After publication of cartoons in Danish newspaper Saudi Arabia and Libya had recalled their ambassadors from Denmark while leaders of other countries had condemned the publication of sacrilegious cartoons and defence of the shameful act by some western leaders. The West claims to be upholder of fundamental rights, tolerance and respect for others’ faiths, but in practice they do things that tend to inflame the sentiments of the Muslims. The western countries should stop misusing the right of freedom of speech to hurt Muslims and followers of other faiths. If they do not stop it, they would make this world unsafe for the present and the coming generations.
Pakistan and Bangladesh had also blocked YouTube after Google did not reportedly agree to remove access to the trailer which has sparked off protests in many countries. In a statement the Google had said: “We have clear community guidelines, and when videos breach those rules, we remove them….In addition, where we have launched YouTube locally and we are notified that a video is illegal in that country, we will restrict access to it after a thorough review.” YouTube is not localized in Pakistan and Bangladesh, though it is in Saudi Arabia, according to its website. Google had blocked the video in five countries besides Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Other countries have made arrangements with the Google, or have developed technology and use filters to block porno or blasphemous videos. It said it had restricted access to it in countries where it is illegal such as India and Indonesia. It has to be mentioned that the US and western countries also have sensors, and especially anti-Semitism is not tolerable at all.