Wikipedia blocked in Pakistan over blasphemous content

Action after Wikipedia failed to remove blasphemous content from its website

By: News Desk
Published: 12:32 PM, 4 Feb, 2023
Wikipedia blocked in Pakistan over blasphemous content
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Pakistan has blocked the Wikipedia after the latter failed to remove the blasphemous content from its website after an expiry of a 48-hour ultimatum given by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on Wednesday, reported 24NewsHD TV channel on Saturday.

The PTA authorities confirmed that it blocked the online encyclopedia on Friday. 

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday said the website had until late Friday to heed the warning, without elaborating on the content in question.

According to its statement issued on Feb 1, “the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority degraded Wikipedia services in the country on account of not blocking/removing "sacrilegious content". Wikipedia was approached for blocking/removal of the said contents by issuing a notice under applicable law & court order(s).”

An opportunity for hearing was also provided, however, the platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the authority. Given the intentional failure on part of the platform to comply with the directions of PTA, the statement said, the services of Wikipedia have been degraded for 48 hours with the direction to block/remove the reported contents.

PTA warned that in case of non-compliance by Wikipedia, the platform will be blocked within Pakistan.

"The restoration of the services of Wikipedia will be reconsidered subject to blocking/removal of the reported unlawful contents. PTA is committed to ensuring a safe online experience for all Pakistani citizens according to local laws," it further said.

The website has previously faced restrictions on some of its pages.

Social media giants Facebook and YouTube have been blocked in the past over content deemed blasphemous, a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan.

"The ban is disproportionate, unconstitutional, and quite ridiculous," said Usama Khilji, a digital rights activist.

"This will impact students, academia, the healthcare sector, researchers, and downgrade investor confidence in Pakistan due to the uncertainty and arbitrariness of censorship," he added.

Wikipedia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Pakistan blocked YouTube from 2012 to 2016 after it carried a film about Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) that led to violent protests across the Muslim world.

In recent years, the country has also blocked the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok several times over "indecent" and "immoral" content.

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