Government doing nothing to resolve YouTube issue
By: Jamal Shahid
PM Raja Pervez Ashraf has order shutdown of Youtube services in Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD: Since blocking the YouTube five months ago in the wake of protests across the country over a blasphemous movie, the government has done practically nothing to either get the objectionable content removed from the website or open access to its non-controversial pages for millions of internet users.
According to sources in the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Pakistan needs to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the US before asking the America-based company Google (which owns the YouTube) to remove the objectionable content from the website.
Explaining the reason, the convener of the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), Wahajus Siraj, said: “Unlike Pakistan, countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia have entered into agreements with the US. Under the MLAT, these countries are in a position to request Google to follow local laws and remove the objectionable content from YouTube,” said Mr Siraj.
The IT expert said the agreement safeguarded interests of the service provider (Google in this case) by not holding it responsible for any blasphemous or anti-state content posted online by individuals/users.
According to Mr Siraj, absence of the treaty was why, despite repeated requests from Pakistan, Google has not taken out the anti-Islam movie. Access to YouTube was blocked on Sept 18 last year following protests in the country.
“Even India has signed the MLAT with the US and because of this New Delhi is able to get all objectionable contents blocked without denying access to YouTube,” Mr Siraj said. According to a senior official of the ministry of information technology there was a status quo on the matter. “The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty if signed is the only way to restrict/block blasphemous material on internet, but there is no progress yet on the matter,” the official said, adding that without signing the agreement links and websites would have to be manually blocked which was not possible.
Mr Siraj said that signing the agreement was not a difficult matter and could be done within two months given that government officials in the ministry of information technology worked proactively on the matter.
“Simply pleading the Google, who owned the popular website, to pay heed to concerns of the people and requests from the government and oblige by removing the objectionable content will not resolve the matter,” he said.
Ms Anusha Rehman, a member of the National Assembly Standing Committee on IT, said that Pakistan needed to specifically address such issues without (taking coercive actions) to the extent of a regulatory filtration, employed by some neighbouring countries.
IT experts say that after signing an agreement with Google and getting YouTube registered, the Pakistan government will be in a position to ask the US company to provide Pakistan-specific content on the website. The experts also say that YouTube was registered in most Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and UAE.