Viewpoints: Pakistani bloggers on internet bans

The popular video-sharing website YouTube and the social network Facebook remain blocked in Pakistan as part of a crackdown on websites seen to be hosting un-Islamic content.

Here, two bloggers in Pakistan give their position on the government’s internet crackdown.

AGAINST THE BAN: DR AWAB ALVI

A group of us internet users, calling ourselves “Defenders of Internet Freedom in Pakistan”, conducted a press conference yesterday where we gave our position on the Facebook ban.

We object to blasphemous content on Facebook but we are against a blanket ban.

As a Muslim, I do find the idea of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad offensive. But my personal view is that if there’s objectionable content, then only the URL that takes you to that content should be banned.

We are all being held hostage. YouTube and Flickr are blocked. Twitter was blocked too, though I was been able to access it again a few hours ago.

If they continue to block things, this is going to hinder Pakistan’s progres

The actions by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority is getting out of hand. Wikipedia is going down and more and more people, I think, are beginning to realise the impact of this decision.

Only about 8% of the country’s population are internet users. So for the majority of Pakistanis, life continues as it is. They are protesting against the fact that there are cartoons and condemning something they haven’t even seen.

There are wider issues. The internet has become a way of life itself. If they continue to block things, this is going to hinder Pakistan’s progress.

Pakistan is an emotionally-charged nation that continues to believe that the Facebook ban is justified. We are a minority of people who disagree and who present the issue publicly.

Yesterday I was nearly beaten up after the press conference. We were confronted with questions like: Are we Muslims? Then why do we defend Facebook? If you are for Facebook, then you are non-Muslim, you see.

Dr Awab Alvi writes for www.teeth.com.pk/blog

FOR THE BAN: KASHIF AZIZ

I agree with the ban on Facebook. It shows that our government means business.

The cartoons are offensive to Muslim people and according to Facebook’s own rules, I believe, it should remove any content that is offensive or discriminatory.

The main point is that the ban doesn’t come from a religious institution, it comes from the high court. This indicates how serious it is.

There needs to be a fine line drawn. Otherwise the freedom of expression can turn into freedom to offend

YouTube is blocked and Twitter was blocked until recently. I’ve tried the BBC News website and the main page is blocked on the PTCL (Pakistan’s main internet service provider). I noticed that it’s accessible through different internet service providers.

We are not allowed to draw pictures of the Prophet Muhammad – that’s a basic rule. So it seems as if this competition page set up on Facebook is trying to make fun of our religion.

I am in favour of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. But there needs to be a fine line drawn. Otherwise freedom of expression can turn into freedom to offend.

There are certain people in Pakistan right now, mostly young adults, who are crazy about Facebook. They think the ban is not right.

They need to be addressed. They need to understand that we have to honour the Prophet Muhammad and that the ban is there for that purpose.

Kashif Aziz writes for www.chowrangi.com
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