Nov 26, 2013

Balochistan: Pakistani Government Enforces Online Censorship

Pakistani government has recently issued a directive aimed at blocking specific links on YouTube, Vimeo and IMDb (Internet Movie Database), specifically targeting a new movie on enforced disappearances, “The Line of Freedom

Below is an article published by the Digital Rights Foundation: 

In an unprecedented event, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) issued a directive to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block Internet Movies Database (IMDb) on November 19 this year [2013]. After an outcry by Pakistani social media community, PTA albeit sent a new order to reverse the block on IMDb only after two days.

In a new turn of events, today users from across Pakistan faced issue while accessing a particular movie title on IMDb. While IMDb remains open, the page for movie “The Line of Freedom” remains inaccessible. “The Line of Freedom” is a short baloch film. It should be noted here that time and again state has used all sorts of means to curb the dissidents’ views and expressions especially from the province of Baluchistan.

On further investigation, it has come out apparent that almost all the possible links that lead to this movie are blocked on Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd. We did a small survey on twitter where people from Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta, and Pindi confirmed that the URL to the film is blocked on Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd where as the rest of the IMDb website is working fine. Same is true in the case of Vimeo.

This ensures the previous claim of Pakistani government reportedly working on a censorship software program that would be able to block specific pages rather than complete websites as in the case of YouTube. However, even after today’s show of selected censorship, YouTube remains inaccessible in the country. Minister of State, Anusha Rehman had previously maintained that as soon as filters will be in place, YouTube will be reopened. However, that is not the case.

Digital Rights Foundation strongly condemns government’s move towards selective blocking. This selective blocking of IMDb confirms civil society’s concerns that Pakistani government would use such means on its own will without any accountability. No criteria, due process of blocking any website/web page have been shared with public.

DRF and the civil society at large demands government makes it’s process transparent, accountable and halt trampling on citizens’ right to access to information.