YouTube blocked in Pakistan: Government attempts to hide President's slip-up

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 08 February 2010 (Bytes For All)

Bytes for All and its members in Pakistan vehemently condemn the Government’s block on YouTube and considers it yet another attack on civil liberties and free speech in the country.

YouTube blocked in PakistanYouTube blocked in PakistanThe saga of this block goes back a few weeks to a public speech by Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, who is the democratically elected President of Pakistan, but an extremely unpopular politician in the country. While he was speaking in Urdu to a public rally, not many people were attentive to what he was saying. As a result, he lost his temper and yelled at them in English, telling the audience to “shut up”.

Various independent media channels picked up on this clip, laughing about this “royal shut up”, and the video eventually made its way on to YouTube. Dr. Adil Najam, renowned academic and scientist noted “such behavior is embarrassing for any politician, but especially for the president of a country.”

This video would have gone by unnoticed if the PTA and the Pakistan Internet Exchange had not started blocking it in Pakistani cyberspace. Suddenly blog posts, facebook pages, twitter and other social networking sites were flooded with anger against the government’s attempts to block YouTube. The links featuring this video on YouTube are still blocked and come up as a “restricted site” when people try to access them.

While the situation is slowly and gradually coming back to normal, we are extremely concerned about this internet block by the authorities. This act by the government clearly shows that the current regime does not believe in free speech and is trying to control what people want to see, say and listen to. This is undemocratic and against the norms of civil liberties. Netizens in Pakistan, bloggers, civil rights activists, IT businesses have strongly condemned the government for this.

It is also relevant to mention the draconian Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance (PECO), which was first imposed by the military dictator but that the current regime continues to enforce. PECO has the power to take drastic measures when information against the president is disseminated. For example, sending an SMS against the president can lead to 14 years of rigorous imprisonment for the perpetrator, along with the confiscation of his property.

Thanks to this attempt to block YouTube, Pakistan now likely leads the list of countries who have blocked YouTube numerous times. If such blocks continue to happen in future, Bytes for All and its members will take this issue to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

To view the discussion threads on this block, access Pakistan ICT Policy Monitors list

View one of the blocked URLs

You can access the screen shot of restricted site

More info about the “YouTube block”:http://teeth.com.pk/blog/2010/02/08/pta-blocks-zardaris-shut-up-video.

(FIN/2010)

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