<videovortex> Pakistan set to ban more web blasphemy

Cecilia Guida cecilia at networkcultures.org
Sat Jun 26 13:06:26 CEST 2010


Pakistan set to ban more web blasphemy
Yahoo!, Google, Amazon, Bing...
By Rik Myslewski

Pakistan announced Friday that it will monitor Yahoo, Google, MSN,
Hotmail, YouTube, Amazon, and Bing, and will block links and content that
it deems anti-Islamic.

"If any particular link with offensive content appears on these websites,
the [link] shall be blocked immediately without disturbing the main
website," Pakistan Telecommunication Authority spokesman Khurram Mehran
told the Associated Press.

In addition to the link-blockage of the seven named high-traffic sites,
Pakistan web-watchers have also completely blocked 17 lesser sites,
including, for example, Islam Exposed, which includes links to blaspheming
articles such as "Muhammad, A Symbol Of Terrorism" along with over-the-top
posts such as "Joe Lieberman Spews Excrement!".

The monitoring and blockage comes in response to a court order, as did
Pakistan's recent ban on Facebook due to its hosting of an "Everybody Draw
Mohammed Day" page — a page that was subsequently taken down, although
Facebook officials claimed to have had no part in its removal.

The complete banning of Facebook was lifted after censorship official
Najibullah Malik was satisfied that the site had lifted all all
"sacrilegious material".

In addition to the Facebook ban, Pakistan last month blocked, then
unblocked YouTube for depictions of the prophet Muhammad, a practice that
many Muslims find blasphemous.

"We decided that this kind of information was going to hurt people's
feelings. We have directed the [Pakistan Telecommunications Authority] to
block all and any sites that display those caricatures," Malik told The
Guardian at the time of the YouTube ban.

The Guardian, reporting on internal controversy surrounding the YouTube
ban, quoted one Pakistani tweeter as tweeting: "Way to go assholes. Why
don't you just cut us off from the internet and get it over and done

Despite lifting the Facebook and YouTube bans, Pakistan hasn't given up
its censorship efforts. "At least 800 individual web pages and URLs have
been blocked since the government's orders to shut Facebook and YouTube,"
Wahaj us Siraj, a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association
of Pakistan (ISPAK), told AFP.

In perhaps the most bizarre development in the country's campaign to
remove blasphemy from its interwebs, Pakistan's Deputy Attorney General
recently launched a criminal investigation against Facebook founder and
CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his role in the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"

Although no charges have been filed in the case, the Pakistani newspaper
The News International reports that the law that prompted the Zuckerberg
investigation, Section 295-C of the penal code, carries with it penalties
of "death, or imprisonment for life".

Not all Pakistanis, of course, are in support of their government's
draconian crackdown on what Section 295-C refers to as "Use of derogatory
remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet ... either spoken or written,
or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or
insinuation, directly or indirectly."

"It's absurd," journalist and filmmaker Hasan Zaidi told The Guardian.
"They haven't thought this through. The logical conclusion is that we
should shut our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears and ban the entire
internet, even email."

Nadeem Paracha of Pakistan's Dawn news service wrote in his "Smokers'
Corner" column: "By continuing to tolerate a psychotic faith-based fringe
for so long, we have actually helped it metamorphose into an unrestrained
monster that has zero tolerance for what we think or do." The problem,
Paracha told The Guardian, is that "Anything to do with Allah, or the
prophet, and everyone keeps quiet."

And it must also be noted that the more extreme members of the Muslim
world aren't alone in taking angry offense at what they perceive as
"blasphemy". Remember, for example, the hue-and-cry that resulted from
artist Chris Ofili's elephant dung–encrusted The Holy Virgin Mary, or the
attacks on the US National Endowment for the Arts over works such as
Andres Serrano's photograph, Piss Christ.

But, to be fair, we must also note that neither Ofili nor Serrano were
subject to a possible government-sanctioned death sentence.

Cecilia Guida
Video Vortex
Institute of Network Cultures

t: +31 (0)20 595 1866
f: +31 (0)20 595 1840

At INC on Wednesdays and Thursdays

cecilia at networkcultures.org

More information about the videovortex mailing list