Freedom of expression at stake!

 “Government could ban anti-government blogs and websites in future”

Pakistan has currently 20 million internet users

Pakistani government dislikes anybody that says a word against it thus freedom of expression is once again in danger in the country as few weeks back the government has started working on a Website Filtering System that would allow the government to block, monitor and control a website. For the development of a blocking system, Technology companies, academic institutions and other interested parties are expected to submit their proposals till March 16 for the $10 million project. The system has been given the name of The Great Fireball, like China’s Golden Shield.

Other countries in the region like China, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and number of Arab Nations have developed system that helps them control and ban websites that are against the country’s interest especially the political blogs and websites that are calling for change in the government in their respective. During the infamous Arab Spring, many Arab political bloggers who voiced concern over the treatment of an ordinary citizen were kidnapped or brutally tortured by the regimes. Although the Pakistan’s Technology Ministry’s Research and Development Fund has said that such move is only to stop the access of offence material found on the internet that includes anti-Islamic material but analysts believe that the government needs an excuse to ban the material they found not in their interest.

People’s Reaction – Is this a dictatorship in disguise?

“20 million internet users in Pakistan”

Opponents to censorship has said that they expected such move from the regime of General Pervez Musharraf but they are shocked to learn that a democratic government would take this step.

Asfham Mushtaq, a political blogger, has expressed that;

“After the installation of this national level filter, political blogging websites that are critical of the government or any critical international research think-tank that publishes reports against the government or its polices will be under threat of being blocked.”

Sana Saleem, Chief executive of Bolo Bhi, a Pakistani group that campaigns against Internet restrictions, has said;

“The authorities here are big fans of China and how it filters the Internet. They overlook the fact that China is an autocratic regime and we are a democracy.”

Stop this: Western Internet companies

“Pakistan becoming China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea”

Enemy of the Internet - Pakistan

Pakistan has banned a large number of separatist websites that include sites that support freedom of Balochistan and few Indian sites are also inaccessible in the country. In May 2010, the government banned YouTube and Facebook for carrying
blasphemous content, on the orders of Lahore high court though the court lifted the ban after two weeks but warned Facebook that a repeat of such event would lead a total suspension of Facebook in the country. Recently the government banned BBC for showing a documentary that claimed that Pakistan is supporting the Afghan Taliban. Few weeks back government was also planning to ban comedy shows that mocked the government for its lack of interest in the country’s affairs.

According to a Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, the country was at 151 number, out of 179, on the list of those countries which have censored great number of websites. In a letter to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, the group has urged the government to abandon this project as it is against the freedom of expression and a threat to free internet. It has also said that if the government continues to create this system then Pakistan could be added to the Enemies of the Internet in 2013.


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