Wikipedia ban shows “inconsistent attempts by Pakistani authorities to restrict internet access”: Report

Wikipedia ban shows “inconsistent attempts by Pakistani authorities to restrict internet access”: Report

The Wikipedia ban in Pakistan shows the “inconsistent and repeated efforts by Pakistani authorities to restrict Internet access, a worrying pattern that is “undermining the country’s burgeoning knowledge economy,” Al Arabiya Post reported. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), Pakistan’s media regulator temporarily blocked access to Wikipedia over the presence of content deemed offensive to Muslim sentiments, according to the news report.People were unable to access Wikipedia for two days until Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif , issued orders to restore it on February 6.

The ban on Wikipedia indicates that “Islamist groups and their radical ideologies continue to hold considerable sway in Pakistan, particularly over the issue of blasphemy, regardless of which political party holds power in Islamabad,” Al Arabiya Post reported. The allegations of blasphemy offense often lead to mob violence and attacks in Pakistan. International and local human rights organizations have claimed that accusations of blasphemy are often used to target minority religious groups and settle personal grudges, as in the news report. At least 80 people have died in Pakistan since 1990 due to accusations of blasphemy, the Al Arabiya Post report said. On February 1, PTA announced that it was “disabling” access to Wikipedia in Pakistan due to the presence of “sacred content” and gave the site 48 hours to remove it.

Following the February 4 ban, the PTA said it had blocked access to Wikipedia due to the site’s failure to remove the offending content within a 48-hour deadline, as stated in the news report. Following the banning of Wikipedia in Pakistan on February 4, the Wikimedia Foundation said: “We believe that access to knowledge is a human right. A block of @Wikipedia in Pakistan is denying the world’s 5th most populous nation access to the largest free knowledge repository. If it continues, it will also deprive everyone of access to Pakistan’s history and culture,” Al Arabiya Post reported.

Internet users in Pakistan criticized PTA’s decision to restrict access to Wikipedia. The excessive power given to the Pakistan government’s telecommunications authority and its effect on freedom of speech in Pakistan has been a major concern for many people in the country, according to the news report. Out of sheer helplessness, some people have even called on the PTA to ban the internet if the government aims to control the flow of information instead of regulating and improving telecommunications for the benefit of people. Pakistani authorities only restored Wikipedia after public outcry on social media.

At a time when many nations are liberalizing their outlook on technology, Pakistan is lagging behind, according to Al Arabiya Post report. Pakistan first banned Wikipedia in May 2010 due to concerns over the presence of controversial material on the site, including “content related to blasphemy, pornography and terrorism.” Pakistan has also blocked TikTok twice for allegedly sharing “immoral, obscene and vulgar” content. Previously, dating apps including Tinder, Grindr and others were banned in Pakistan for allegedly sharing “immoral content”. In 2010, Pakistan blocked YouTube over its “growing sacrilegious content.”

The former prime minister of Pakistan, led by Imran Khan, was extremely concerned about data accessibility for the people of Pakistan and tried to pass legislation to access data servers and require technology companies to maintain a physical presence in the country for monitoring , as in the news report. This kind of approach indicates the ignorance and fear-driven measures regarding technology access. (ANI)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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