Pakistan blocks Twitter because of ‘offensive material’
Pakistani authorities have blocked access to the social media website Twitter because of messages they say are offensive to Islam.
They talked of “blasphemous and inflammatory” material although it is not clear exactly what the tweets said.
Some officials mentioned a 2010 Facebook competition involving pictures of the Prophet Muhammad, considered blasphemous by Muslims.
At that time access to about 1,000 websites was blocked.
The ban in 2010 lasted for around a fortnight until Facebook blocked access to the controversial page in Pakistan.
The new ban on Twitter comes just hours after Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, said there were no plans to block access to the site.
The Indian news agency PTI reported a tweet sent by Mr Malik: “Dear all, I assure u that Twitter and FB will continue in our country and it will not be blocked. Pl do not believe in rumors,” it said.
But the chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, Mohammed Yaseen, told the Associated Press (AP) news agency: “We have been negotiating with them (Twitter) until last night, but they did not agree to remove the stuff, so we had to block it.
Supporters of censure
“Ministry [of technology information] officials are still trying to make them agree and once they remove that stuff, the site will be unblocked,” he said.
The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan told Reuters news agency its members had been asked to block Twitter indefinitely but the government had not given them a reason.
US-based Human Rights Watch called the ban “ill-advised, counterproductive and futile”.
Despite the ban, AP is reporting that many people in Pakistan have still been able to access Twitter by using software that disguises the user’s location.
Over the past year thousands of websites have been blocked without warning in Pakistan – pornographic sites have been targeted as have sites that are considered “anti-state”.
The BBC’s World News channel was taken off air for three months after it broadcast something the Pakistani establishment saw as objectionable.
But while there may be those worried about freedom of speech here, there have also been many who, in the past, have raised their voice in support of such restrictions on the media and internet, says the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad.