Ban on YouTube : LHC summons info minister
LAHORE: A division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday summoned the Federal Minister of Information Technology Anushay Rehman at its next hearing to present the government’s stance on public access to YouTube in the country.
The LHC noted that the federal government had not yet presented its stance on the issue, which affects the constitutional right to freedom of expression guaranteed to every citizen. The judges observed 95 percent of the material on YouTube is educational.
A local non-government organization (NGO) Bytes for All filed a petition challenging the government’s ban on YouTube, imposed last year, for showing blasphemous material. YouTube is a subsidiary of Google Inc. Mr Yasser Hamdani, counsel for the petitioner, said that there would be no point in the LHC’s order to Minister Rehman if she decides to depart to Mecca for another umrah. Mr Hamdani was referring to the reason provided by the government for the minister’s absence at the last hearing.
Officials from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and the Ministry of Information Technology (MOIT) told the court that blocking of all sites on the Internet was not possible.
The counsel for the petitioner underlined the need to develop a system to address resolve public grievances against the PTA that would ensure citizens’ right to access information as well as block objectionable content on the Internet.
YouTube was blocked across Pakistan on September 17, 2012 following orders by then-prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who impose the ban after YouTube refused remove a film blaspheming against Prophet Muhammad from its website.
Mr Hamdani had asked the court to allow temporary access to YouTube, but the court refused. An Information Ministry said that reallowing access to the site was a sensitive issue, and thus allowing access might lead to unrest in the country.
A deputy attorney general also told the court that the federal government had decided to prolong the ban after Google had refused to remove the blasphemous video. He had said that there was no agreement between Pakistan and Google that would allow the government to censor controversial material on YouTube. A PTA representative also informed the court that the authority will be able to successfully censor objectionable material from the websites based in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the next four months.