Pakistani court seeks govt response on YouTube ban

A Pakistani court ordered the federal Information Technology Minister to present the government`s clear response to a petition challenging the ban on YouTube.

Lahore: A Pakistani court on Friday ordered the federal Information Technology Minister to appear before it on August 07 and present the government`s "clear response" to a petition challenging the ban on YouTube.

A bench of the Lahore High Court summoned the minister and the federal IT Secretary after they both failed to appear during today`s hearing.

An Additional Secretary of the IT Ministry told the court that the minister could not appear as she was busy preparing the IT policy while the Secretary had an eye infection. He said the government was not allowing access to YouTube because of security concerns.

Earlier, representatives of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the IT Ministry told the High Court that the government had been unable to evolve a mechanism to block objectionable websites and blasphemous materials.

Since the IT Ministry had failed to block clips of the anti-Islam film "Innocence Of Muslims", the government did not allow the lifting of the ban on YouTube, PTA said.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, who heard the case, remarked: "Access to Internet cannot be denied and it is up to the people to make decisions at such points."

The petitioner`s counsel spoke of the need for evolving a complaint strategy for resolving public grievances, ensuring right of access to information and blocking pornographic sites.

An NGO, Bytes For All, had filed the petition for removing the ban slapped by the previous government on YouTube after the administration of Google refused to remove blasphemous materials from the video-sharing website. The NGO argued that the ban amounted to an infringement of the fundamental rights to reading and knowledge. It said a large number of people had been affected by the ban.

The court later adjourned the case till August 07.

Earlier, the IT Ministry told a division bench of the Peshawar High Court yesterday that the ban on YouTube cannot be lifted until a mechanism is put in place to permanently block blasphemous contents.

The Ministry conveyed its position while the court was hearing a petition filed by lawyer Mina Muhibbulah Kakakhel, who challenged the nearly year-old ban on YouTube.

YouTube was blocked in September 2012 by former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf after clips from "Innocence Of Muslims", posted on the site, triggered violent protests across the country.

Kakakhel, in his petition filed in the Peshawar High Court, argued that students were facing problems in accessing academic content hosted by YouTube. He asked the court to direct authorities to filter blasphemous materials and reopen the site.


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