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Pakistan 9 January 2009

More websites blocked at government’s behest

Reporters Without Borders noticed on 9 January that http://www.dictatorshipwatch.com was accessible again in Pakistan.


Reporters Without Borders condemns the directive issued by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to Internet Service Providers instructing them to block access to six web pages on the grounds that they are “harmful for the integrity of the country.” The PTA is responsible for regulating the Internet.

“This does not bode well for online freedom of expression and information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “There was nothing in the content of these web pages that attacked Pakistan’s integrity, yet the PTA provided no further explanation for the order. The only content these web pages had in common were photos of the governor of the eastern province of Punjab that can be found on other websites. We urge the PTA to rescind this order.”

Photos of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer were widely circulated online last month accompanied by criticism of a lifestyle that is lavish in comparison with how most of the province’s population lives.

The directive was issued on 26 December by PTA chief Yawar Yasin at the request of an inter-ministerial committee tasked with monitoring and blocking websites that are deemed to be blasphemous, pornographic, “anti-state” or “anti-Pakistan.” The directive listed six web pages to be blocked and asked ISPs to ensure that that the PTA’s instructions were carried out.

The six web pages identified in the directive were:

-  http://www.dictatorshipwatch.com/2008/11/08/governer-punjab-salman-taseer-%E2%80%93%-history.html

-  http://www.dictatorshipwatch.com/2008/11/06/leaders-of-a-nation-half-of-which-sleep-hungry.html

-  http://www.dictatorshipwatch.com/taseer/taseer.swf

-  http://www.makepakistanbetter.com/why_how_what_forum.asp?GroupID=5&Group_title=Pakistan%ArticalID=4297

-  http://www.friendskorner.com/forum/f137/governer-punjab-salman-taseer-his-family-77872/

-  http://www.buzzvines.com/node/3347

Abid Ullan Jan, who has edited the Dictatorship Watch (http://www.dictatorshipwatch.com) website since 2007, posted an article about the directive on 2 January. Access to the entire site was blocked two days later and is still blocked (http://www.dictatorshipwatch.com/2009/01/04/dw-notification-january-04-2008.html).

The previous government led by General Pervez Musharraf was also ready to crack down on the Internet. The video-sharing website YouTube, for example, was blocked on the PTA from 22 to 27 February on the grounds that the proportion of “non-Islamic objectionable video” on the site had increased.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance, a cyber-crime law promulgated by the new president, Asif Ali Zardari, on 6 November, introduced severe penalties for blogging, hacking and spamming. It was retroactive, applying to blog posts and emails dating back to 29 September.




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