Domain of YouTube opened to erase objectionable material, SC told
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it has launched domain of YouTube in Pakistan and after getting access to it, it will be able to erase objectionable material uploaded on it.
A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Justice Ijaz Afzal Khan and Justice Qazi Faiz Isa heard a petition seeking unblocking of YouTube as well as suo moto cases regarding obscene content on TV channels.
On September 17, 2012, the government had blocked YouTube in Pakistan after receiving information from the security agencies about continuing access to a blasphemous video created and uploaded in the United States on YouTube.
Barrister Zafrullah Khan, chairman Watan Party Pakistan, had filed the petition in 2012, seeking unblocking of YouTube in Pakistan. While the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) former Ameer Qazi Hussain Ahmed (Late) and Justice (R) Wajihuddin Ahmed had written letters to former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry against obscene content aired on TV channels.
On Tuesday, Director General PTA Nisar Ahmed and Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman informed the court that domain of YouTube in Pakistan has been launched with the technical facilities of removing objectionable material from the site. The court directed DG PTA and representative from Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to submit a comprehensive report within 15 days explaining effective measures taken for discouraging obscenity on TV channels. The court also directed the counsels for the petitioners to assist it on the issue and give their suggestions as well.
During the hearing, Justice Faez Isa observed that YouTube is different from other websites and it is an educational site as far as explicit content is concerned. He said technical experts must come forward to resolve the issue.
He further observed that YouTube is not a pornographic site, adding that millions of people upload and download different knowledgeable contents on the site but “we are moving backward”. “If a gun takes life then it saves life as well,” Justice Faez Isa remarked, adding that if there are some objectionable contents on YouTube then there are more positive contents on it. He said people should not watch objectionable things.
Muhammad Akram Sheikh, counsel for Qazi Hussain Ahmed, requested the court to ask DG PTA as to whether he can censor the objectionable material on YouTube. Justice Faiz Isa observed that no obscene material can be viewed on YouTube as it has been blocked.
DG PTA contended that the problem is that one can upload objectionable material on YouTube because subscriber of the site becomes its operator. He informed the court that local domain of YouTube has been launched in Pakistan with a technology for erasing the objectionable stuff. He said that on lodging complaints, they can remove any objectionable material from it anytime. Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman informed the court that the government has developed a complaint cell wherein the sites may immediately be blocked after the complaints. He further said that a complaint cell comprising 25 persons is sitting in Pakistan Telecommunication Office which monitors the complaints.
Taufeeq Asif, counsel for petitioner Muhammad Hussain Mehnthi, submitted that Pakistan is not a free society hence some contents should not be shown openly in order to safeguard the young generation and values.
Justice Ijaz Afzal Khan observed that the current concern is the content being shown on YouTube which is adversely affecting the youth. However, he said, it is also being used for educational purposes. He further observed that internet is available everywhere and these issues should be addressed soon. Justice Ijaz Afzal inquired from Pemra and PTA as to what work so far has been done to root out this menace?
“We would be waiting for your input so you may think over the matter with open mind,” Justice Ijaz Afzal asked the Pemra and PTA. He further observed that they are not against the facilities being provided by the internet but effective measures should be taken at the earliest for erasing objectionable material in order to save the young generation.
The court in its order ruled that the information of any field of work has become so widespread that a person interested in any field can acquaint himself with latest development taking place. The court observed that the information has to be qualified; it cannot be extended to include any nasty and nefarious content so that it may not spoil young generation. Later, the court adjourned the hearing for two weeks.