STAFF REPORT ISLAMABAD: International website Facebook may again face ban in Pakistan, as a petition has recently been filed in the Lahore High Court praying to block it permanently for hosting a fresh blasphemous caricature drawing contest world over under a title “2nd Annual Draw Muhammad Day on May 20, 2011.
Interior Minister Rahman Malik has also told the media that Youtube may face ban if it is not ready to cooperate with the government of Pakistan and does not observes codes on releasing contents. This ban is supposedly on the sites like Google and Youtube because, according to him, terrorist networks across the country are using these sites as hosts to the promotion of their terrorist activities.
It maybe recalled here that Facebook got banned in Pakistan last year for hosting ‘Draw Mohammad Day’ and for not removing blasphemous pages from its server.
Facebook is a social network and users from around the world are free to post anything, however, its content is moderated based on Facebook terms which state: “You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”
Facebook became controversial and was condemned especially in the Muslim world for not removing the Draw Mohammad Day page from its server. While on the other hands Facebook tends to remove any anti-Jews or anti-Israel page in only few minutes.
‘The Pakistan Telecommunication (reorganization) Amendment Bill 2010’ is still pending with the government, that will strengthen the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in order to check and monitor the gray internet traffic, which is incurring upto $500 million revenue losses to the national exchequer every month.
The petition filed by a law firm of Muhammad & Ahmad cites the Draw Muhammad Day, which it seems is unfortunately turning into an annual affair – where people from around the world submit their caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. My take on that – that’s just an issue for another day, really.
Jehan Ara, President of Pakistan Software Houses Association, said that banning Facebook because of the actions of select people is not a good enough reason to shut down a site which can actually be used as a window into the lives of Muslims around the world and promote better understanding amongst people of different religious beliefs. “I think the world could use more of that,” she added.
Critics say that the Facebook competition of sketches is indefensible by any ethical or moral yardstick. The Facebook policy allowing individual users to create hate pages under the garb of individual autonomy and free speech is not just misconceived but also discriminatory. For example Facebook doesn’t allow pejorative speech against the Jews, and rightly so. But if anti-Semitism is forbidden, how can bigotry against Muslims and their revered beliefs be protected in the name of fundamental rights and free speech?
It is to be mentioned here that Facebook has been blocked intermittently in several countries including China, Vietnam, Iran, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Syria and Bangladesh on different bases. For example, it was banned in many countries of the world on the basis of allowed content judged as anti-Islamic and containing religious discrimination. It has also been banned at many workplaces to prevent the wasting of employees’ time.
According to content experts, banning Facebook in Pakistan might not deliver to much extent. The government authorities need to invigorate its monitoring of Internet contents and also pursue the international internet monitoring agencies to ensure full compliance of content codes by all controversial websites.