Fact-check: Yes, PTI’s websites blocked in Pakistan ahead of polls -
Pakistan Press Foundation

Fact-check: Yes, PTI’s websites blocked in Pakistan ahead of polls

Pakistan Press Foundation

Multiple online posts claim that authorities have blocked access to the official websites of the political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), ahead of the parliamentary election on February 8.

The claim is true.

Claim

On January 25, a social media user tagged the interim minister for information technology on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, and asked why the PTI websites were inaccessible in Pakistan.

“Dear Umar Saif, can you tell Pakistanis why these websites of the country’s most popular political party are blocked by you?” the user wrote, alongside hashtags #RiggingAgainstPTI.

The two websites named by the X user were, insaf.pk and pticandidates.com.

This post has accumulated thousands of interactions and nearly 400,000 views on X.

Similar claims took off here and here.

Fact

The official website of the political party, insaf.pk, and a recently launched portal, pticandidates.com, which provides information about PTI’s candidates in the fray for the 2024 general election, are blocked on most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Pakistan, confirm digital media professionals and a journalist.

“The websites of PTI are inaccessible on most ISPs in Pakistan,” Usama Khilji, a digital rights activist, told Geo Fact Check over the phone, “The [websites] have been blocked using the Web Management System (WMS) as well as the Domain Network System (DNS). This is a grave violation of Article 19A, which guarantees the right to information.”

He added that it was concerning that this was happening in the run-up to the polls, when websites are crucial for voters to access information.

Khilji further asked under what law was the government’s Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocking a political party’s websites.

“The PTA has claimed [recently] that due to court orders, and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, it is using the Web Management System to ‘regulate’ content,” Khilji said, “But the political party’s websites do not fall under either any court order or any clause of the 2016 Act.”

Geo Fact Check then reached out to Bytes for All (B4A), a research think tank in Islamabad.

B4A also confirmed that both PTI’s websites have been blocked in Pakistan since January 24, using the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) blockage method.

B4A further stated that it checked the status of both websites on three networks in the country: Nayatel, PTCL, and Jazz. It found the websites inaccessible on all three networks.

While Ramsha Jahangir, a digital investigative journalist, told Geo Fact Check that she was not currently in the country and could in fact access both the websites from abroad.

Jahangir further shared the link to https://veepn.com/blog/how-isps-block-websites/, to check if an ISP was blocking the websites.

Geo Fact Check checked the status of PTI’s web pages on isup.me, down.com, and isitdownorjust.me. It received the same message on all three links that the PTI’s sites were online and the problem was in fact at our end.

“None of these online indicators show that PTI’s webpages are down,” Jahangir added, “It could be blocked on the ISP level.”

Separately, Geo Fact Check further contacted the spokesperson of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). No response was forthcoming till the filing of this report.

Source: Geo News


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