The joy of scores of YouTube users across Pakistan was short-lived after the government first unblocked YouTube after a 103-day ban, only to block it again minutes later. The Hindu reports that all went well with Interior Minister Rehman Malik tweeting on Saturday that the notification to end the YouTube ban could be expected soon. As planned, the ban was lifted and ISPs were directed to restore access and submit a compliance email by 3 pm. Almost as soon as access was restored, news channels in the country began reporting that the objectionable video that triggered the block in the first place was still up on the video-sharing website. This saw the government issuing a fresh ban on YouTube.
As it stands now, there is no clarity over the duration for which the ban had been lifted. “How long YouTube remained accessible is unclear but from the various versions available, the duration was anywhere between 33 minutes to two hours,” the report stated.
Unblocked, then blocked again..
The country blocked YouTube in September owing to the anti-Islam movie 'Innocence of Muslims', which incited much ire across the world. At the time, Pakistani PM Raja Pervez Ashraf directed the website be suspended in the country. In a statement from the PM's office it was revealed that the Ministry of Information was ordered to cut access to YouTube so that the video could not be viewed. “The direction has been given after YouTube refused to heed to the advice of the government of Pakistan to remove blasphemous material from its site. The prime minister said that blasphemous material would not be tolerated and the services of YouTube would remain suspended till removal of blasphemous material,” said Ashraf's office.
Less than a month later, the nation blocked user access to about 20,000 other websites, citing objectionable content. The objectionable content hosted on the blocked websites includes footage from the anti-Islam movie.
An official of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority stated that user access was blocked to about 20,000 websites following a court order. A sessions court in Lahore reportedly ordered a case be registered against the PTA Chairman for the organisation’s failure to block footage from the anti-Islam film. “The PTA has not only blocked websites featuring the anti-Islam film but thousands of others with objectionable material,” added the official.
The official added that it is unlikely that the ban on YouTube would be lifted any time soon. “The ban on YouTube will continue as long as it does not remove the blasphemous film. Pakistan can take no chances on lifting the ban as people are not ready to accept this film,” he added. He went on to assert that if YouTube continues to carry the objectionable video, the ban will continue for “an indefinite period”.
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