Facebook blocks human rights website in Pakistan

Bytes For All, APC member based in Pakistan, has been denouncing for months an agreement between Facebook and its government, whereby the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority suggests which pages pages the social network should make unavailable for users in the country. Facebook has responded that they only block content that is considered illegal in the country, generally on the grounds of obscenity and blasphemy.

Recent developments, however, have put Facebook’s intentions into question. Earlier in December 2013 the page of the human rights organisation Roshni [http://roshnipk.com/] was blocked for Pakistani users for the second time. Roshni’s mission is “to promote alternative opinion on matters of religion, culture, society, politics and history to encourage debate” and there’s is nothing blasphemous, obscene or illegal about the content of the fan page. They are especially popular among young people, who rely on Roshni for information ways to counteract extremisms of any forms, specially Islamist militancy. Both their first page (/RoshniPakistan) and their second page (/RoshniPakistan2) had more than 35,000 members, which made them the most popular progressive Urdu Facebook page. They are currently operating from the page /RoshniPakistan3.

Roshni was created three years ago and its website is currently blocked in Pakistan. They offer content in Urudu on religion, politics, history, society, gender and mores. Roshni is primarily a secular democratic platform “which believes in free speech with responsibility and promotes tolerance, harmony and pluralism in a multicultural Pakistan,” according to the organisation. “Roshni’s objective includes being a strong voice against terrorism and extremism of any forms, specially Islamist militancy,” they added. A voice that the government is truly invested in silencing, with the generous support of Facebook.

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