The Pakistani government has blocked Facebook and YouTube, as well as
some Flickr and Wikipedia pages, throughout the country for the "growing
sacrilegious content" on the sites. The controversy began
popular but informal series of Facebook groups and events called
"Everybody Draw Mohammad Day," which is a violation of Islamic law
forbidding the depiction of the prophet Mohammad. But the additional
bans beyond Facebook appear to have little to do with the Facebook
groups. Here's what to understand about this sticky intersection of
religious law and free speech.
- Pakistani Society's Powerful
'Hard-Line' Minority The New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise writes,
"The ruling demonstrated the power of hard-line Islamic groups in
Pakistan. Although they rarely garner many votes in elections and
represent a minority of this country’s population, the groups are often
able to impose their will on the more peaceful majority by claiming a
defense of Islam."
- Fears of Public Backlash Against Cartoons
The Big Money's Caitlin McDevitt writes,
"Pakistani officials seem worried that the event and Facebook activity
around it could lead to violent protests, not unlike the backlash
sparked by Danish newspaper cartoons depicting Mohammed five years ago."
Hypocritical Ban Foreign Policy's Saba Imtiaz laments "Pakistan's ironic tendency to
act only when it comes to blasphemous content and not content that
affects the state's security. Hateful and derogatory literature is
available openly in Pakistan, and the Pakistan Telecommunication
Authority has not attempted to block YouTube channels such as that of
the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or videos of hate-laden speeches by
Jaish-e-Muhammad leader Masood Azhar." She makes a troubling
I also have to ask what this judgment will do to the
morale of the thousands of young students who in 2007 mobilized to
campaign for the restoration of Pakistan's judiciary and organized
protests of then-President Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule -- using Facebook.
- Could This Snowball? Foreign
Policy's Katherine Tiedemann wonders, "Next to be blocked in
Pakistan: twitter?" More tongue-in-cheek: "And then gmail, I reckon? Because theoretically
people could EMAIL each other offensive pics. Then POSTAL mail."
Accessible Media Memo's Peter Kafka explains,
"Pakistan has temporarily blocked access to YouTube before. So have
other countries, including Turkey and Thailand. And China has a
permanent ban on the site, as well as Facebook. That doesn’t mean people
who live there can’t actually get to the sites — that’s what proxy
servers are for — but it does mean it’s harder to do so."
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