World Day Against Cyber Censorship in Pakistan

As a long time activists working for a free and open Internet in Pakistan, I would like to join Reporters Sans Frontieres in highlighting the World Day Against Cyber Censorship today 12th March. This event is intended to rally everyone in support of a single Internet that is unrestricted and accessible to all. It is also meant to draw attention to the fact that, by creating new spaces for exchanging ideas and information, the Internet is a force for freedom.

The Internet in Pakistan is controlled by the bureaucracy within the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the people of Pakistan remain at the behest of their discretion on what is permissible and what is not permissible in Pakistan. PTA is quite definitely influenced by the mighty and powerful rulers of our country and enforce censorship on specific websites that they may deem themselves to be offensive.

Historically internet censorship took a plunge for the worst in 2006 when the Supreme Court in Pakistan decided to block 12 specific websites for carrying the offensive Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Cartoons which were published by a danish newspaper. PTA should have blocked the particular website but instead blocked the entire blogspot.com domain which resulted in millions of blogs which were hosted on blogspot.com blocked to internet users in Pakistan. In an uproar the bloggers in Pakistan voiced their anger across the world wide web and it also lead to the formation of Don’t Block the Blog which became the front runner in providing verbal resistance to this blanket censorship. The tussle with PTA last over year, only removed when Google obliged to switch their IP addresses while doing a technical upgrade on their servers, PTA simply did not react and blogspot was yet again open to the general public.

Ever since 2006 we have actively monitored the workings of PTA and it has been seen that it remains at the beck and call of dictators, rulers, the mighty, the powerful, and the rich and famous in Pakistan obliging them with blanket censorship when something irritating or defamatory crops up on the Internet against them. There are effectively no ground rules or principles which are followed by the PTA and it is generally seen that a simple notifications is issued to all ISP’s in Pakistan ordering them to initiate a block on a particular URL, the users are to discover only by accident, if they happen to stumble upon the website.

The hypocrisy of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is blatantly evident by the fact that in an Islamic state of Pakistan millions of pornographic websites remain fully accessible to the users in Pakistan, yet the PTA chooses to leverage its authority on suppressing freedom of expression against the corrupt rulers, or merely censoring reports of human rights issues, all based on the whim of the rulers of the country.

It is my position that the internet should be free and open to the People of Pakistan allowing the people to harness this boundless platform for creating new spaces for exchanging ideas and information, the Internet should be considered as a force for freedom and looked upon as a tool for progressing the growth of a struggling nation. Join Reporters without Borders in rallying for World Day Against Censorship

19 thoughts on “World Day Against Cyber Censorship in Pakistan”

  1. Your courage in writing this piece to oppose the autocratic regime's freedom of expression is indeed commendable. It's unfortunate that the freedom of expression is a vulnerable commodity even in unformal space such as the blog.

    The very fact that you can write this piece shows that the opposition shown by the activists in your country has been effective!

    Please visit my blog-post too on this topic.

    Archana (Global Voice Author)

    Archanablogging.wordpress.com

  2. At least we can raise voice, but a caution, nothing would change. So long as protests and resentments are concerned, the concerned authorities are deaf and dumb. Period.

    However, inernet geeks are smart enough. One of friends told me the trick. I tried and was successful. Go through google, you hit the site, it would come "this page is banned" or "resitricted". I went back, there is a cache hyper-link, hit it and you get the page. Since this was my personal experience I can not say for sure that it works in all cases. One more thing, I surf from google international and not through google/pk.

  3. time has changed rapidly and these morons of PTA & interior ministry are still living in 60s.some body should tell them time of controlling the news has been over.

    what did they gain by blocking makepakistanbetter.com?

    the over sensitivity of our govt against political jokes is making them more blunders.

    this is just cause and every one should support such movements.

    Best regards

  4. This is very interesting era of cyber revolution in our country.More the autocrat minded people try to curb the issue or try to impose restriction on any specific topic, it would be pass on system in much faster rate then before restrictions.

    It is also seen that ruling elite is still unaware of power of cyber world which is creating volcanic forces among masses.

    It looks after seeing their dumb attitude that they are trying to restrict so that outer world cant read the public sentiments through this mode of communication.

    Recent example we had seen when rehman malik tried to stop the popular jokes about zardari.

    Our sharp minds sitting behind computers immediately go for another track to convey their sense of humor.

    Musharf like administrator had never thought that the freedom of media would have become reason of his downfall.Like relaxed ruler he thought he was giving liberty so that people would busy in music drama and movie culture and he remained busy in political massacre of Pakistan.

    So this awareness was proved just like that as Moses had grown up in Pharaoh's palace and he had come to know when Moses had stood against him.

    So I dont think so that cyber censorship is very successful in our country as it has by default a tendency to move on.

    it has many negative aspect too as this faster rate of propagation is being used for many kinds of negative propaganda through these wires too.

  5. Hello everyone. How its goin'

    I feel that Internet freedom has now coming to an end. It has given everyone a "carte-blanche" to write against anyone whatever they want to write in their way and create any website/blog and put whatever porno or popcorn vdos and pics.

    The Western scientific establish mass-media incl. internet pride themselves on being open public forums devoid of prejudice and censorship.

    What teeth is doin' I ain't against it. He's doin wonderful job as He's raising voice against Honor Killings and Cyber Censorship but my point is that there's nothin gonna change no matter you write extensively about it…Our govts will be unmoved and will do what the script have give them by their mammon/mentors aka WC/WDC.

    Our minds should be set on truth and not vice-versa. We should seek truth ourselves rather than askin others to give. I created a blog and now I deleted myself b4 itz deleted by our pagans-pols/pta which wasn't for the yOkels.

    In fact, 2day media are tools for mind control of the masses. Their main purpose is to cut off the roots of the true history of humanity, and promote a nihilism and make public gelded and debased. do you understand?

    We've been doing nothing progressively by sitting on our bums in front of PCs and writing/reading unless we fight for the system which is sordid…I'm against system not any individual.

    We should be united and must not fight ourselves and must recognize our true enemy and put every effort to crush it not only in words but in deeds as well.

    Good Bye

  6. What hypocrisy!

    How can you write all this with a straight face, condemning censorship (which is good), while innocently saying things like "PTA should have blocked the particular site". Sorry, dear, but that too is censorship. If people were so opposed to that cartoon, then they shouldn't have directed their browsers towards that site or Googled it. Simple.

    You can't have freedom of speech when it suits you and not have it when it goes against the religious insecurities of people. And that is why the worst censors in the world are either ideological regimes, dictatorships and countries in the Muslim world.

  7. Danial Burki has raised a very solid but explosive point. I foresee a hot debate on this burning issue. There was wave of protests involving incidents of arsony throughout the country on derigatory cartoon of our Prophet Mohammad Mustafa Sallallaho Alayhay Wasallam by Denmark Newspaper. Also all sites that published this mean cartoon were banned by PTA. In the same breath, period, in the same breath, we are protesting and demanding freedom of media and internet. A motion has been moved in the Senate to ban Indian TV channels. I put a question for resolving "Is there a line drawn between freedom of information and supressing the material that is likely to injure the feelings of certain group of society OR there should be freedom of information across the board and independent of its consequences?"

  8. I history teaches us how Sir Syed Ahmed Khan made the Muslims of India were told to accept Western education in order to get ahead in life. The tendency to reject it was great. But Sir Syed Ahmed Khan changed all that. Yet the tendency to reject still lingers. The Internet was shocking. People had access to things which would never allowed by the government if they knew how to control it. But when they did, the entire system collapsed. The habits of all the dictators we have and had have is to prevent the flow of information. But they cannot fight the Internet. Which is why I am against any kind of censorship. Allow the government to censor one thing they will censor everything. The government should interfering in what people want, be it right or wrong. There is one organisation called PEMRA which has nothing to do except censor cable TV, complete idiocy, because people can always rely on their own satellites to view those channels which PEMRA has prohibited. Throughout Pakistan's history there has been censorship. During Zia-ul-Haq's there was only PTV the mullahs were given the task of censoring ads, particularly during Ramzan. First Ramzan the Mullahs banned ads which showed people eating and drinking anything before the fast ended. Next Ramzan cooking and preparing Iftari was banned. Third Ramzan the mullahs prohibited anyone filling glasses with drinks. After that Zia-ul-Haq was no more and the Mullahs ran with their tails between their legs.

    In country where censorship reaches such extreme levels, it only leads to complete madness. There should be no censorship of any kind. People should never be arrested for downloading anything others may think is offensive. Censorship is a crime. People are victims of crimes, but that never appears in the newspapers or on TV because they have been told not to report it. Everyone knows the police is corrupt and masterminds most crimes, so can it allow an investigative of any crime which has taken place? The Inter-Service Public Relations the media branch of the military will not allow news of soldiers killing each other. This absolute insanity. News about Azad Kashmir are never reported particularly when police and the military is involved in killing and battering. Too many lies have been told for over 60 years, it is time the truth came out.

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