Free YouTube! Pakistan ban faces court action

By Rebecca Santana

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Sept. 15 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

A committee of officials from various ministries is looking for solutions and will make the decision on whether to unblock YouTube. But experts aren't sure a technical solution even exists, and Bytes for All and others say that even if the government comes up with a filtering mechanism, they will continue to resist it as censorship.

Kamran Ali, a spokesman for the Ministry of Internet Technology, acknowledged that the ban can be a hardship but said the government must weigh freedom of information against offending the public.

"It's a Muslim country, and this video clearly violates the religious sentiments of the people of Pakistan," he said.

At Air University in Islamabad, some students supported a government-imposed filter. "If they are able to control this blasphemous material that would be a good step," said Waqar ur-Rehman, 21.

But they recognized the difficulty of actually coming up with a system, and some argued against any restrictions, if only because they could be evaded.

"I think the ban shouldn't have been there. It (the movie) hurt a lot of religious sentiments, mine as well, but it was not the right way to do it, because there are so many ways to go around it," said Palwasha Khursheed, who studies electrical engineering.

Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a Muslim cleric, acknowledged the ban was porous, and said Pakistan was missing an opportunity to use technology such as YouTube to educate people about Islam.

He urged the government to lift the ban, but only after installing filters, saying, "We must not allow anyone to attack our cultural values."

One solution would be a localized version of YouTube for Pakistan. But Google would need immunity from prosecution for any offending content, and Pakistani law so far doesn't allow for such an arrangement.

"It is Google's goal to offer local versions of YouTube to more places worldwide, but it takes time," said Google in a statement to The Associated Press in request for comment about the court case. "The localization process can be lengthy as we research laws and build relationships with local content creators."




Follow Rebecca Santana on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ruskygal. Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this report.

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