Update: 20th Hearing of Internet Freedom Case: Petitioner referred to Supreme Court

Islamabad, May 13, 2014: The 20th hearing of the Internet Freedom Case (aka Youtube Case) was held at the Lahore High Court today. The court was presented with a document of consensus reached by several different stakeholders including petitioner, the MoIT, the PTA and technical experts from the IT and Telecom industries. This consensus was developed at a high level meeting chaired by Federal Minister of IT on April 30, 2014. The consensus opinion confirmed the futility of Internet filtering, keeping in view the impossibility of blocking any content on the Internet to 100% due to technological reasons. The court ordered the petitioner to go to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to get an interpretation of its order dated September 17, 2012 that resulted in blanket ban of Youtube in Pakistan. 

The consensus document presented by the committee of experts presented three options that could be used to try and ‘block’ the offensive video, with their pros and cons. One of the expert, representing the committee of experts and concerned government departments recommended to the court to restore Youtube in its entirety, whilst PTA and MOIT continue to find and flag copies of offending videos for Google to screen with interstitial warnings. Such warnings, he said, would prevent offence to people’s religious feelings. 
Honourable Justice Mansoor Ali Shah once again reiterated that banning Youtube because of one undesirable video is like shutting down of an entire library because of an offensive book contained within it, but observed that given the Supreme Court’s original order dated September 17, 2012, to completely block the offending video, it would be inappropriate for a High Court to interpret ‘blocking’ with its own judgment. 
The bench rebuked the federal government’s counsel at the government’s lack of interest in resolving this longstanding issue and dragging its feet in obtaining a workable, pro-people interpretation from the apex court. The bench further said that government knew that 100% blocking of the offending video was impossible and it remained available on all different video-sharing sites, and only Youtube was blocked. 
For the duration that this case will be heard at the Supreme Court, the Pakistan Internet Freedom case will remain pending at the Lahore High Court. 
At Bytes for All, Pakistan, as per Lahore High Court orders, we will soon be submitting to the Supreme Court of Pakistan for a clarification of its earlier order. We believe that the intent of the apex court was not to have entire Youtube blocked in Pakistan. We hope for a positive outcome resulting in free and open Internet contributing towards national socio-economic development.
About Bytes for All, Pakistan
Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening social justice movements in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk
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