Pakistan blocks Wikipedia over blasphemous content

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked Wikipedia services in Pakistan on Friday after their refusal to withdraw blasphemous content.

Earlier, the Authority had degraded its services in the country.

When this reporter contacted the PTA spokesperson late on Friday night and inquired about the blocking of Wikipedia, she confirmed that “yes” it had been blocked.

On the instruction of the high court, the PTA degraded — disrupting and slowing access to the encyclopedia — website for 48 hours because there was blasphemous content on it.

The PTA spokesperson stated that Wikipedia was approached for blocking/removal of the said content by issuing a notice under applicable law and court order(s).

An opportunity of a hearing was also provided; however, the platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the Authority.

Given the intentional failure on the part of the platform to comply with the directions of PTA, the services of Wikipedia were degraded for 48 hours with the direction to block/remove the reported contents.

In case of non-compliance by Wikipedia, the platform has been blocked within Pakistan.

The restoration of the services of Wikipedia will be reconsidered subject to blocking/removal of the reported unlawful contents.

PTA is committed to ensuring a safe online experience for all Pakistani citizens according to local laws.

Fifth most populous nation being denied free knowledge: Wikipedia 

Meanwhile, Wikipedia confirmed the suspension of its services across Pakistan, saying that the PTA "blocked Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in the country".

The encyclopedia posted a thread of tweets and said that the suspension of its services would deprive the people of Pakistan from the "right to access knowledge".

"On 1 February, we received a notification from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority stating 'the services of Wikipedia have been degraded for 48 hours' for failure to remove content deemed 'unlawful'. As of 3 February, our data shows this has extended into a full block," the tweet stated.

The online encyclopedia complained that the 5th most populous nation in the world is being "denied" access to the largest free knowledge repository, stressing that "access to knowledge is a human right".

"If it continues, it will also deprive everyone access to Pakistan's history and culture," it added.

Wikipedia expressed hope that the government of Pakistan joins it in "a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restores access to @Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly", in order to allow people in the country to access and share knowledge. 

Commenting on the development, digital rights activist Usama Khilji criticised the authorities for blocking the information portal.

"Wikipedia, World’s largest encyclopaedia, appears to be blocked in Pakistan by @PTAofficialpk."

The Bolobhi director said that the courts and regulator must realise that Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced platform where anyone with an account can edit articles, which they can also do instead of blocking the entire website. 

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