Pakistan government not keen to restore YouTube

NEW DELHI: In separate hearings in Lahore and Peshawar High Courts earlier this month, it became clear that the Pakistan government is not keen to restore the usage of YouTube in the country.

The Peshawar High Court was told on 1 August by Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom Additional Secretary Muhammad Ijaz Mian that it was in the interest of public to keep the video sharing website blocked.

He said an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) had reviewed the matter on 8 February 2013 and found that the public stance was the same and the situation had not changed on blasphemous content. He added that since there was no technical solution at the hands of ministry to ensure 100 per cent blockage of controversial URLs, it was decided, keeping in view the security situation and the sentiments of public to continue with the decision of blocking YouTube.

In the Lahore High Court the same day, Minister of State for Telecom & IT Anusha Rehman Khan and the Secretary IT failed to appear. An additional secretary for the minister who appeared before the court said she could not come as she was busy in making IT policy for the country whereas the Secretary IT had an eye infection that did not allow him to attend the court.

Although the Court summoned both on 7 August, it was observed during the hearing that the government has not been able to resolve the issue of blasphemous content since September 2012, the month YouTube was blocked by the then PM Pervaiz Ashraf.

The High Court said an intelligent solution and regulation was required from the government.

Peshawar High Court was told that the Ministry had issued directives to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for finding a state of the art technological solution to overcome the problem but the authority has not responded positively on the issue.

The Ministry representative told the Court that it had contacted google administration to remove the content from its server which the search engine giant refused on grounds that it worked under the laws of the United States and existing law in Pakistan did not force it to fulfill the demands of the Pakistan government.

Google has already told the ministry to pass intermediary legal protection legislation in the country. A worldwide phenomenon, which will make the search engine comply by the local rules and regulations.

On the other hand, Lahore High Court has stated that it is not a solution to block the entire website which also has very valuable information for general public. There should be an intelligent solution to deal with the menace of anti-social and blasphemous content instead of blocking the entire website.

The court clearly stated that information flow cannot be controlled in this way and there should be self-regulation in every house as well. A worst action would be to block the whole internet in the country that will also severe links to the outside world.

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