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Only 22 per cent Pakistanis support freedom on the internet

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NEW DELHI: Even as the Lahore High Court in Pakistan continues to debate on whether the ban on YouTube should be lifted, a survey has revealed that a mere 22 per cent of Pakistanis want internet that is free of official censorship from the government.

Pakistan scored the lowest percentage out of the 24 developing countries where the use of internet is either prohibited or limited.

India did not figure in the survey as there are no restrictions on internet in this country.

Pew Research Center said while Venezuela topped the list with 69 per cent wanting freedom of the internet, the other country at the bottom was Uganda with 49 per cent wanting the internet to be free.

Most of the other countries in the poll said that they wanted an internet free from censorship.

Pakistan had banned YouTube after the showing of what it termed as an offensive film, but has not lifted the ban even after the film was removed.

With the ban on YouTube for the past 17 months, famous singer Ali Gul Pir has released a song ?Kholo BC? to mock government for its inability to lift the ban on such a useful online platform. With main focus on YouTube ban, Ali and his fellow artiste Adil Omer have touched upon various issues related to Pakistani society, its Youth and the dichotomy present in the behavior of its ruling elite.

According to the US-based Pakistani website MoreMagazine, this song is perhaps the most controversial song released by Ali till date and is almost matched to the norm breaking music that was once produced by beygairat brigad, but their songs were banned in cyber space because of them mocking the Pakistan Army.

A censorship-free internet is a priority for most people in emerging countries, especially the younger population, according to the Pew report.

Pew Research Center interviewed nearly 22,000 people in 24 emerging and developing countries. In 22 of those 24 countries, the majority of respondents think "it is important that people have access to the internet without government censorship."

The strength of censorship opposition varied by country, as well as other factors. Support of internet freedom is prevalent in Latin American countries as well as Lebanon and Egypt, Pew said.

Not surprisingly, anti-censorship sentiment tends to be strong in nations where internet use is more common, such as Chile and Argentina. The trend is reversed in less connected nations like Uganda.

But two countries bucked that trend: internet-freedom support in Russia (63 per cent) and Pakistan (22 per cent) came in low compared with the level of Internet penetration in those countries.

Age is also a major factor: In 14 of the 24 countries surveyed, people ages 18-29 are more likely than those 50 or older to think a free Internet is important. In nations including Russia and Lebanon, that age gap came in at 20 percentage points or more.

"These age differences suggest that support for internet freedom will only become more widespread with the passage of time," Pew said in its report.

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