Pakistan Temporarily Blocks Twitter For Blasphemy
The ban came as a surpire to many Pakistani officials, as well as the public. Interior Minister Rehman Malik had insisted Twitter would not be blocked, only to be proven wrong this weekend.
"Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" was a campaign launched two years ago to promote freedom of expression but which violates the Islamic prohibition of depicting the prophet Muhammad. It has a Facebook page and a Twitter account which encourage people to draw irreverent pictures of the prophet.
Pakistan went to court and agreed on a settlement to block access to the Facebook page within the country, the BBC said. Twitter has declined to block the content, however.
According to the New York Times:
A government spokesman was quoted by local news media early on Sunday as saying that the government had been in talks with Twitter to remove “objectionable” material, but that there had been no results...
It remained unclear — and unlikely — that Twitter had agreed to the demands of the Pakistani government before access was restored, at roughly 10 p.m. Sunday.
Fizza Batool Gilani, the daughter of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, announced on Twitter around then that Mr. Gilani had ordered the restoration. Blasphemy is an issue that stirs sentiment easily in Pakistan. Blasphemy allegations have often resulted in violent riots, and religious minorities in Pakistan have long maintained that the country’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores.
Facebook was banned for two weeks in 2010 after protests erupted in the country over a similar cartoon contest on Facebook to draw the Prophet Muhammad. After a high court ordered the government to ban Facebook, the government was quick to ban YouTube and hundreds of other Web sites and services.
The ban "is ill-advised, counterproductive and will ultimately prove to be futile, as all such attempts at censorship have proved to be," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director for Human Rights Watch. "Free speech can and should only be countered with free speech."
From the Boston Herald:
Earlier this year, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology began soliciting proposals from research institutions and software firms for a filtering system capable of blocking as many as 50 million websites deemed by the government to be blasphemous or offensive. Human-rights groups harshly criticized the move as a gateway to Internet censorship. Lawmakers later said the idea was being dropped, but there has been no confirmation from the government that it was abandoning the project.