There should also be a procedure to review the decisions of blocking such websites. This was demanded by Press United to Serve Humanity (PUSH), a Pakistan-based NGO working for the freedom of press to observe March 12 as “World Day against Cyber Censorship”.
A recent poll revealed that almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right and the international bodies such as the UN are also pushing for universal net access.
While the right to communicate cannot be ignored, the situation in Pakistan is strange where any website can be blocked by Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) without telling any reason or communicating with the webmaster.
With a recently-issued regulation, on direction of Government of Pakistan, PTA can block access to internet or any single URL without mentioning the reason for the ban, having said that, we don’t have any rules for banning or for allowing a website. This is really funny and looks like you are to appearing for an exam with no books to study, while examiner will use his/her will to pass it.
Regulation aimed at National Security concerns, is feared to be used by politicians for their own benefits, for instance, a Youtube video was recently banned in Pakistan that showed President Zardari’s speech in Lahore.
Last year, the PTA blocked links to a video alleging the misuse of power by Naval Chief who was shown as alleged land grabber.
Whereas in February 2008 elections, Youtube website which hosts a video clip that showed election rigging by a major political party, was blocked in Pakistan but according to PTA the ban was because of the number of “non-Islamic objectionable videos” hosted there .
The webmaster of the ‘Make Pakistan Better’ website also reported recently that the PTA has directed that the site be blocked on an Internet Protocol level. The webmaster alleges that the site has been blocked for hosting anti-government content, though the PTA has cited no reason for the clampdown. “I think our site is blocked because of these same hard hitting articles. You simply cannot block a website on the basis of having a strong and opposing opinion, because in a country where anti-Islamic or anti-Pakistan site’s are not blocked and even in an Islamic state where practically millions of pornographic sites are wide open so the whim of blocking a particular site based upon strong criticism against a certain group of individuals in power should not justifiable or even accepted by society.
The official order for blocking the website issued by Director General Enforcement of PTA is also circulated on the cyber space.
Under article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”