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Pakistan unblocks YouTube after three-year blasphemy ban

Thursday 21 January 2016, by SIGNIS

Islamabad, Brussels, January 21st, 2016 (SIGNIS/Ucan). Pakistan lifted a three-year ban on YouTube on Jan. 18 after the launch of a localized version of the popular video-sharing website, a move welcomed by Church officials. "Google has recently launched a country (localized version) of YouTube (YouTube.pk) and confirmed that YouTube.pk does not contain any known copies of the blasphemous movie “Innocence of Muslims," said a statement issued by Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology.

The government imposed the ban to comply with a court order that sought to prohibit online content considered blasphemous by Muslims such as the low-budget film, Innocence of Muslims. The ban was strongly condemned by digital rights activists, who denounced it as media censorship.

Ban was ’futile’

Father Peter Shangara, editor of the Faisalabad Diocese’s online newspaper, welcomed the government’s decision to lift the ban. "The ban shouldn’t have been imposed in the first place as it was a futile exercise. People were still accessing YouTube through proxy sites," he said.

"There are a lot of controversial and objectionable things on the Internet. Instead of banning them, the government should have launched a campaign to educate people on how to ignore offensive material," Father Shangara said.

The priest said that YouTube was also a source of income for many users, who were badly hit by the ban. "You may find anti-Christian content online. Shall we demand the blockage of Internet?" he questioned.

The YouTube ban was put in place in September 2012 after the film Innocence of Muslims sparked violent protests in Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of more than 20 people. Thousands of protesters took to the country’s streets, calling for the execution of the U.S. filmmaker.

Pakistan’s religious minorities have especially complained about the misuse of harsh blasphemy laws. A former Punjab governor and a federal Christian minister were assassinated in 2011 for seeking amendments to blasphemy laws.

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