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    February 17, 2013


In The Name of ALLAH  The Almighty

To Do or Not to Do:
Revisiting Youtube Ban in Pakistan

According to Shakespeare, the question “To do or not to do” makes one dwell in a sea of thoughts. A similar question can be asked over the Youtube ban in Pakistan. YouTube which is the most popular video sharing website has more than 7 million users in Pakistan. Almost five months ago, an anti-Islam film called “Innocence of Muslims” was posted on this website that spouted violence and protest across the country. Responding to this issue, the Pakistani government decided to ban the whole video sharing website. Pakistani authorities argue that they have requested YouTube to remove such offensive clips, but the video-sharing website replied negatively because Pakistan uses the globalized version of the website that follows US law which favors freedom of expression and US law doesn’t have any issue with the video. The ban has affected every aspects of life but little has been done to revoke. Many Pakistani journalists and people belonging to media-rights group have criticized banning the whole website while Pakistani authorities have not yet changed their stance. The ban overrides human rights, impacts academia, and other aspects of life negatively therefore YouTube should not be banned.

One of the important reasons that Youtube should not be blocked is that it violates human rights. One important human right which is suppressed is Digital rights. Shahzad Ahmad, an Islamabad-based digital rights group criticizes such decisions carry the potential to derail civil liberties and basic human rights such as democracy, freedom of expression and access to information. Moreover according to a High Court decision these bans are not truly constitutional and should not be allowed.
Another significant reason is that the ban has disturbed academia in the country. YouTube plays a significant role in the advancement of online and distant learning by providing easy and free access to educational videos. Almost every modern educational institute avails this service. One great example is Virtual University (VU) of Pakistan. Until recent happenings, it was greatly dependent on Youtube buts since the ban, the VU had to entirely change their online video posting system. But other institutes which might not have the required resources for alternatives are suffering. A friend of mine who was preparing for his TOEFL test by watching videos on Youtube is in worry over the ban. Even our own online learning is also affected that we have to arrange face-to-face sessions sometime. These are just few instances, there would be thousand others affected by the ban.

Moreover the ban has disrupted other aspects of life too. YouTube used to provide free access to local and global news, now we don’t have access to it. If you had a major routine of watching videos for not only entertainment but also other healthy reasons, you can’t do this anymore. YouTube is also a medium of artists to connect with their fans by sharing their videos; now they have lost this opportunity and right because of this ban. In addition, many activists utilize YouTube for social, religious and political campaigns but now they have to think of alternatives.

The opponents believe that blocking YouTube is the right thing to do for it will prevent viewing of blasphemous movie and eventually it will prevent riots and protests. However this is not entirely true because it is still accessible in Pakistan by other means. There are hundreds of proxies and other websites that facilitate bypassing the ban. Therefore if they want to prevent viewing of the offensive video they need to block the specific offensive video rather blocking the whole video sharing website. PTA argues that they cannot block the selected offensive videos therefore they have requested YouTube officials to block the movie in Pakistan but YouTube officials did not respond positively. In this case Pakistan doesn’t necessarily have to rely wholly and solely on Youtube authorities. They need to solve this problem more creatively by thinking of alternatives but useful ways;for instance Pakistan can localize operation of Youtube in Pakistan like Indonesia has done, so that we can have control over it. The National ICT R&D Fund had requested for proposals on launching a massive URL filtering system to bock the offensive videos. Even a subsequent court order from Lahore high court gave PTA the authority to implement whatever they need to block the offensive video. Although PTA has finally considered this solution but unfortunately it has not given any time frame for its accomplishment and implementation.

In short YouTube shouldn’t be banned in Pakistan because it violates human rights, disturbs online learning, and other aspects of life. The ban has restricted our internet rights such as access to information and freedom of speech. On the other hand it has disrupted many important aspects of life especially online learning. Therefore, it is high time for Pakistani authorities to reevaluate the purposefulness and negative impacts of the ban; and think of moving from traditional ways of online censorship to some creative and realistic alternative solutions that can be achieved within a specific time frame.

Shukrullah Ahmadi




mail @ chitraltimes@gmail.com

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