Pakistan poised to vote on restricting media
Pakistan is poised to clamp down on the country's independent media industry.
The government has introduced a bill in parliament which, if passed, would usher in harsher regulations for broadcasters and online organisations.
It seeks to amend a law enforced by Pakistan's former military ruler, Gen Pervez Musharraf, in a bid to regulate parts of the media.
Political analysts fear the government is using the law to rein in broadcasters critical of its policies.
The bill, which targets radio and TV and some online news services, is likely to be voted on within days.
The extent to which new media will be affected by the proposed law is unclear, while print remains unaffected.
The current government, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, has sought to placate censorship fears by claiming that it is diluting the harsher methods introduced by the former dictator.
"We are introducing the bill after disposing of those parts introduced by Musharraf," Belum Hasnain, chairwoman of the parliament's media committee said in a statement.'Reining in TV'
The committee has to vet the bill, known as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Act, before parliament votes on it.
Ms Hasnain said the bill would remove restrictions on the media, as promised by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani in his inaugural speech.
However, political analysts believe that the government is using the law to rein in local television channels which have grown highly critical of its policies.
According to the bill, broadcasters in Pakistan will be banned from showing images or programming of suicide bombings, terrorists or the bodies of victims of terror attacks.
They will also be prevented from showing related material.
Further, they will not be permitted to broadcast statements by militants or extremists, or activities deemed to be connected with the spread of militancy and extremism.
The broadcaster will also be bound to assure the government that none of its programmes will promote hatred or militancy.
In addition, the law states that programmes opposing the ideology, sanctity, independence and security of the state of Pakistan cannot be broadcast.
Companies that violate the law will have their licences cancelled. They can also be fined up to 10 million rupees ($117,647; £78,740) and jailed for three years.
The bill is likely to raise questions about the government's policy on freedom of speech and dissent, which has hardened considerably over the past three months.
Pakistan has recently blocked several internet sites for allegedly promoting blasphemous content. It has also started monitoring of search engines and email providers including Google, Yahoo and Hotmail.
The electronic media regulatory bill is likely to be presented for vote before the parliament in a few days.
Pakistan to monitor Google and Yahoo for 'blasphemy'http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/south_asia/10418643.stm
Pakistan will start monitoring seven major websites, including Google and Yahoo, for content it deems offensive to Muslims.
YouTube, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail and Bing will also come under scrutiny, while 17 less well-known sites will be blocked.
Officials will monitor the sites and block links deemed inappropriate.
In May, Pakistan banned access to Facebook after the social network hosted a "blasphemous" competition to draw the prophet Muhammad.
The new action will see Pakistani authorities monitor content published on the seven sites, blocking individual pages if content is judged to be offensive.
Telecoms official Khurram Mehran said links would be blocked without disturbing the main website.Cartoon controversy
The ban on Facebook was lifted after about two weeks, when the site blocked access to the page, called Everybody Draw Muhammad.
Facebook itself is not on the new list of websites to be monitored. A number of links from YouTube will be blocked but not the main site itself.
Many Muslims regard depictions of Muhammad, even favourable ones, as blasphemous.
In 2007, the government banned YouTube, allegedly to block material offensive to the government of Pervez Musharraf.
The action led to widespread disruption of access to the site for several hours. The ban was later lifted.
Pakistan blocks access to YouTube in internet crackdownhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/south_asia/10130195.stm
Pakistan has blocked the popular video sharing website YouTube because of its "growing sacrilegious content".
Access to the social network Facebook has also been barred as part of a crackdown on websites seen to be hosting un-Islamic content.
On Wednesday a Pakistani court ordered Facebook to be blocked because of a page inviting people to draw images of the Prophet Muhammad.
Some Wikipedia pages are also now being restricted, latest reports say.
Correspondents say it remains to be seen how successful the new bans will be in Pakistan and whether citizens find a way round them.
YouTube statement Pakistanis divided over bans
Because YouTube is a platform for free expression of all sorts, we take great care when we enforce our policies.
YouTube says it is "looking into the matter and working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible". The site was briefly blocked in Pakistan in 2008 - ostensibly for carrying material deemed offensive to Muslims.
Facebook said on Wednesday that the content did not violate its terms.
There have been protests in several Pakistani cities against the Facebook competition.'Derogatory material'
The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority said it had ordered internet service providers to "completely shut down" YouTube and prevent Facebook from being viewed within Pakistan.
It said the move came only after "all possible avenues" within its jurisdiction had been used.
AnalysisContinue reading the main story
Countries, companies and even individuals can easily block various websites if they choose. China has a notorious firewall in place to control internet activity and many Western organisations choose to block access to social networks in the office.
In this case, Pakistan will probably have instructed its internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent any pages containing the phrase "youtube.com" in the address from loading on web browsers.
There are various ways of implementing a block and sometimes it can go awry - Pakistan accidentally pulled YouTube offline around the world in 2008 when it tried to implement an internal ban by "hijacking" the youtube.com address in order to re-direct links to a different page.
There are also ways to duck underneath a ban - most commonly by accessing the internet via a "proxy" server based abroad. This can fool an ISP into thinking a computer is actually based in another country and therefore not subject to the ban.
"Before shutting down (YouTube), we did try just to block particular URLs or links, and access to 450 links on the internet were stopped," said PTA spokesman Khurram Ali Mehran.
"But the blasphemous content kept appearing so we ordered a total shut down."
One of the links blocked is to a BBC News website article about Pakistani soldiers apparently beating Taliban suspects in a video posted on Facebook.
A YouTube spokesperson said: "YouTube offers citizens the world over a vital window on cultures and societies and we believe people should not be denied access to information via video.
"Because YouTube is a platform for free expression of all sorts, we take great care when we enforce our policies. Content that violates our guidelines is removed as soon as we become aware of it."
The controversy began with the Facebook feature called "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day". Depictions of the Prophet are forbidden in Islam.
A message on the item's information page said it was not "trying to slander the average Muslim".
"We simply want to show the extremists that threaten to harm people because of their Muhammad depictions that we're not afraid of them."
The page contains drawings and caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and characters from other religions, including Hinduism and Christianity.
"Such malicious and insulting attacks hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world and cannot be accepted under the garb of freedom of expression," Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said about the page.
Facebook said in a statement that it would take action if any content "becomes an attack on anyone, including Muslim people", but that in this case its policies were not violated.
"Facebook values free speech and enables people to express their feelings about a multitude of topics, even some that others may find distasteful or ignorant," the statement said.
A hotline has been set up in Pakistan, asking members of the public to phone in if they see offensive material anywhere.
Islamic parties say they are planning nationwide protests in Pakistan.
Five people were killed in the country in 2006 during violent demonstrations following publication of Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper.BBC website readers have been telling us what they think of the ban. Here is a selection of their comments.
I am a university student and use Facebook and Youtube as a way of interacting and staying in touch with friends. But all students are willing to give up this source of entertainment for the sake of principles.Zahara Sohail Khan from Lahore, Pakistan
The strict policies of Facebook regarding racism and harassment are only for individual users. Now a page on Facebook is harassing billions of Muslims world-over and Facebook's management is not bothered. What hypocrisy.Maroof from Lahore, Pakistan
I am a Muslim girl, just a normal student. When my religion is insulted, it is me who is insulted. I can live without Facebook but I definitely cannot live in humiliation. I am with my country on this and if Facebook does not take action on this, then ban or no ban, I would never go back to it anyway.Maham Tanveer from Rawalpindi, Pakistan
As a Muslim growing up in America, I am frustrated that neither side takes the time to understand the other. For Muslims, directly insulting the sacred is beyond petty 'freedom of speech' privileges we mortals have. In the West, people think arrogantly that they are free to say anything without limits whatsoever, no matter how ridiculous or insulting.Qureshi from Florida, USA
I am now living in Karachi, Pakistan, and I never thought I'd have to endure blocks on websites ever again after I moved from Saudi Arabia. Even though I have found a way to access blocked websites, I can't believe the government would put a ban on them.Omar from Saudi Arabia
I did use Youtube and Facebook but I have removed my accounts from both sites and have communicated this to all my family and friends who have been using them.Hassan Mehmood from Pakistan
This is ridiculous. I find these to be ill-advised measures. Blocking websites in countries does not prevent the content from existing in the first place. I think the Pakistani government should move to ban pornography (which is still easily available) before they ban Facebook and YouTube which are obviously on the better side of human development.Myra from Karachi, Pakistan
This has been outrageous and infuriating. I feel disconnected from the world, from my friends, and from the easiest modes of expression available today.Uzma from Lahore, Pakistan
It is not only Facebook and YouTube which have been blocked in Pakistan, but parts of the BBC website too, for example the link given below, many stories about Pakistan and the entire South-East Asia section. In fact, I am forced to use a proxy server just to post this comment. As a Pakistani, I feel very frustrated and angry about this crackdown on the internet and can only hope that this is temporary.Schyan Zafar from Pakistan
Know more about Pakistan : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/country_profiles/1157960.stm
- Full name: Islamic Republic of Pakistan
- Population: 180.8 million (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Islamabad
- Largest city: Karachi
- Area: 796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles), excluding Pakistani-administered Kashmir (83,716 sq km/32,323 sq miles)
- Major languages: English, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi
- Major religion: Islam
- Life expectancy: 66 years (men), 67 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Pakistani Rupee = 100 paisa
- Main exports: Textile products, rice, cotton, leather goods
- GNI per capita: US $980 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .pk
- International dialling code: +92
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