Pakistan threatens to block all social media networks over blasphemy

Pakistan previously banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film that led to global riots.

Published: 09th March 2017 04:44 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th March 2017 04:44 PM   |  A+A-

Social Media

Image used for representational purpose. (File Photo | AP)

By AFP

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court has ordered the government to open an investigation into online "blasphemy", threatening to ban social media networks if they failed to censor content deemed insulting to Islam, lawyers said on Thursday.

The issue came to the fore in January when five secular activists known for their outspoken views against religious extremism and the powerful military were disappeared, presumed abducted by state agencies according to opposition parties and international rights groups.

Four of them were later returned to their families weeks later, but not before they were tarnished by a virulent campaign to paint them enemies of Islam deserving execution.

Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court asked the government to form an investigative committee to report back next Monday over the issue, saying he could order social media sites to be blocked if offending content remained online.

"The judge ordered the government to make a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) with Muslim officials only to look into the blasphemy issue," said advocate Tariq Asad, who represents the hardline Red Mosque which brought the case to court.

Rights groups say the label of blasphemer is liberally applied by religious conservatives in order to silence criticism of extremism.

Even unproven allegations can be fatal. At least 65 people including lawyers, judges and activists have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to recent think tank report.

Pakistan previously banned Facebook for hosting allegedly blasphemous content for two weeks in 2010 while YouTube was unavailable from 2012 to 2016 over an amateur film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to global riots.

But Islamabad later came to agreements with major internet firms to block within Pakistan material that violated its laws, generally once the companies had performed their own cross-checks.

Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer who worked to get YouTube unblocked, said previous web censorship had also originated with court orders and the judge could succeed in implementing a fresh set of bans.

"In this case you would have to apply to the Supreme Court to overrule it. Would they? He's going to couch it in religious language...It could create a lot of problems if he does that," he said.

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp