Once again social networking sites face ban in Pakistan

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, mayo 18 (APC)

The Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court has just ruled in favour of a petition to filter several social networking websites including Facebook, Yahoo, MSN and Wikipedia. The ruling released on May 13 found that Facebook and other websites were in violation of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and should be censored in Pakistan.

The Lahore High Court judgment in favour of the petition number 10392/2010 suggests that, given that several other countries —Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and China— have blocked these websites, the Pakistani government should not consider the move unprecedented and “can solicit the necessary help from the said countries with regard to legislation in that regard” (Paragraph 12).

This ruling comes as the anniversary of the first Draw Mohammed Day looms on May 20. Last year, Pakistan enacted a total ban on Facebook, YouTube and several other websites for almost two weeks in response to the provocative Facebook group “Let’s Draw Mohammed”. Official documents by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority reveal that about 12 000 websites were blocked during this time.

During the previous ban, APC circulated a statement condemning the ban as unnecessary, unjust and ultimately counterproductive.

“The blanket ban of an entire platform like Facebook is a blatant violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms. These platforms are an important medium for social and political organising and information sharing. Just as States should not ban a public library, neither should entire platforms simply be shut down. Such moves are against international human rights law and the principles outlined in APC’s Internet Rights Charter,” says Joy Liddicoat who leads the APC Internet Rights are Human Rights campaign and is a former Human Rights Commissioner for New Zealand.

While APC’s Internet Rights are Human Rights campaign is closely monitoring the events in Pakistan, it calls for the Lahore High Court to uphold Article 19-A of the Pakistani Constitution and to remove the government-imposed block on the free flow of information and communication. After all, an open internet is critical for defending essential human and democratic rights.

For more information: Karen Higgs khiggs@apc.org

— This press release was amended on May 31 2011. It originally stated that Facebook and other social networking sites would be “banned”. In fact the specific petition called for these sites to be “filtered”. There is another petition pending at the time of writing which calls for their complete ban. This has been corrected in the article above.

(FIN/2011)

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