Lahore, July 4, 2013: National Security and Law & order situation continues to be the prime reason for the ban on YouTube in Pakistan. It was the 9th hearing of Pakistan Internet Freedom case (Bytes for All Vs. Federation of Pakistan) before the court of Honorable Justice Mr. Mansoor Ali Shah at the Lahore High Court.
At the court, Federation of Pakistan was represented by the Deputy Attorney General (DAG), along with a team of technical and legal experts from Ministry of IT, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and other relevant departments. Bytes for All, Pakistan had a strong presence of social media activists and independent experts in the courtroom.
Since the Court had ordered the authorities to bring Google representatives at today’s hearing, the Honorable Judge inquired about their presence in the court. The DAG informed that Google didn’t respond to requests and seemingly has no interest in this case. Honorable Judge registered his extreme displeasure on this and commented that it would have been a nice gesture on the part of Google being a large corporation to present itself in the court and discuss the possible way forward, beneficial to all stakeholders.
The petitioner pleaded the court for an immediate interim lifting of ban on YouTube, while PTA is still in discussion with Google’s management on removal of sacrilegious content on their platforms. Responding to this request, DAG and PTA’s representative raised the issue of law & order in the country and other sensitivities attached with unbanning of YouTube. While Honorable judge heard their argument, he also strongly emphasized that authorities needs to find a quick solution because citizens cannot afford complete blackout of Internet in the country. The petitioner maintained their stance that Censorship of any kind is totally unacceptable in any democratic society.
The petitioners strongly emphasized on how PTA had been misleading the court on technical grounds in this particular case. While PTA has the technical capacity to block individual URLs to keep the rest of the platform accessible, they had been denying their ability to do so. In this regard, petitioners mentioned the newest research by Citizen Lab and Bytes for All uncovering Internet Firewall of Pakistan.
Listening to the arguments, Honorable judge ordered PTA and MoIT to convene a joint meeting with Bytes for All Pakistan and independent experts from within the country or abroad. The court welcomed Bytes for All’s submission to bring in internationally renowned experts on the subject to advise the court.
Honorable Judge noted that how YouTube ban is negatively impacting the citizens, especially students. He committed to resolve this issue as soon as possible. He directed the petitioner and respondents to submit a detailed joint report on 25th July (the date of next courtroom hearing) outlining the capacities at PTA and way forward on unblocking YouTube in Pakistan.
At Bytes for All, we stand committed to fight this oppressive ban and infringement of citizen rights by authorities in Pakistan. We believe that YouTube has a critical value, when it comes to digital rights, freedom of expression, speech and assembly. We urge the authorities to revoke the ban immediately and stop blocking and crippling the Internet infrastructure in the country.