Eight months and counting: Can PTA filter unwanted YouTube content, asks PHC -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Eight months and counting: Can PTA filter unwanted YouTube content, asks PHC

Pakistan Press Foundation

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) directed a petitioner to collect information on whether the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) could filter blasphemous material being uploaded to YouTube.

A PHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth gave the orders while hearing an application filed by Mian Muhibullah Kakakhel. The petition requested YouTube be unblocked and asked the court to issue an order to this effect.

YouTube has been banned in Pakistan since the trailer for the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ was uploaded on the video-sharing site, causing public outrage in September 2012. The petition contended since people also used the site for informative purposes, the PTA needed to remove unwanted material so services could be resumed.

Being a Muslim, it is intolerable if someone uploads blasphemous material to YouTube, observed the bench. It asked the PTA to remove the material if it had the required technology.

The bench also asked the petitioner to ascertain if the PTA had sufficient technology and expertise to filter offensive content and inform the court in the next hearing.

Meanwhile, the PHC recommended the Ministry of Religious Affairs closely monitor the performance of Hajj and Umrah tour operators before allocating the companies a quota of pilgrims. This was suggested during the hearing of two different petitions filed by Bannu Travels and Tours, and Malik Hajj and Umrah Services.

Officials from the ministry claimed they had been scrutinising all operators. After the Hajj scam surfaced in 2010, the pilgrim quota for three tour companies was reduced and a penalty of Rs8 million was imposed on over 20 companies, with some even being blacklisted.

According to the ministry officials, a chartered accountant has been hired to examine all tour operators in the country. Operators will be graded out of 100 and quotas will be allocated according to the marks obtained.

The scrutiny process includes experience and performance during Hajj and Umrah seasons, the tour operator’s financial health, and the provision of services to pilgrims. Pilgrims have been asked by the Ministry of Religious Affairs to file complaints if they find their operator is not up to the mark.

The officials maintained the ministry would not discriminate against any tour operator and that the scrutiny process would be completed with a week or ten days.

In addition, the PHC bench suggested the financial health and experience of the tour operators be tested. The ministry should take into account the extent to which operators facilitated pilgrims before allocating a quota, it observed.

Source: The Express Tribune

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