Freedom of speech is not a very cherished possession, not at least in Pakistan. Pakistani government has been intermittently imposing bans on social networks due to alleged political and religious reasons to keep the users, at large, from using these outlets to express their opinions. In the fresh sequel to the series, the micro-blogging website, Twitter, has been banned in Pakistan.
The excuse that has been furnished by Pakistan’s telecommunication authority is that Twitter is hosting some of the content which has something to do with drawing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. Given Pakistan’s Muslim population, this, it is said, is an offence to the users and thus the site has been blocked.
However, the truth is that this is entirely untrue. PTA has a knack of blocking websites on the whim of its own desire, without ever asking the opinion of internet users or the masses at large. In the past, it has banned Facebook and numerous other sites on similar pretexts. In certain cases, this has been done solely to silence political dissent online.
The interesting part is that just hours before the ban, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik stated, “Dear all, I assure u that Twitter and FB will continue in our country and it will not be blocked. Pl do not believe in rumors.”
PTA is also working on a digital web filter that will be eventually used to filter any content that PTA doesn’t like or which the government may want to have banned. For this, no opinion from any tech experts, web users or the masses have been taken and the filter is being seen by all social activists as a way to curb freedom of speech in the country.
The only gleam of hope, however, is that the social activists are now coming together to seek litigation over it and question PTA’s authorities to make such moves. Their argument is that if this is not done, PTA can very well turn Pakistan’s cyber-space into the likes of those in China and Iran where a single word against the regime or anything contrary to the likes of the regime is not allowed online.