(CTN News) – Following a two-day suspension, Pakistan lifted its Wikipedia ban after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif instructed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to do so “immediately” on Monday.
According to a statement from the PM’s Office, the decision was made based on the recommendations of a three-person ministerial committee comprised of Ministers for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, Minister for Economic Affairs and Political Affairs Ayaz Sadiq, and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb.
PTA said it was “degrading” Wikipedia services in Pakistan on February 1 due to the platform’s failure to delete “sacrilegious material” after being requested.
After the encyclopedia failed to address the concerns two days later, it was fully outlawed, infuriating the nation.
Following this event, the ban’s problem was brought before the prime minister on February 6 (today), and he established a ministerial committee to conduct an initial investigation of the subject.
Wikipedia was a helpful site/portal that encouraged the diffusion of knowledge and information for the general public, students, and academics, the committee concluded, according to the statement.
“Blocking the website entirely was not the best course for limiting access to any offensive contents/sacrilegious topics. Therefore, the advantages of this broad restriction exceed its drawbacks, according to the statement.
After that, the prime minister issued an order to “immediately” restore Wikipedia.
Furthermore, PM Shehbaz established a fresh cabinet committee under the Rules of Business, 1973, to investigate the situation further.
The committee members will include the ministers of law and justice, economic affairs, political affairs, information and broadcasting, commerce, and communications, and the minister of IT and telecommunication, who will also serve as the committee’s head.
A further clause of the order allowed the committee to “co-opt any expert members or seek views from expert individuals/organizations to attain its conclusions.”
The committee’s goal is to assess whether the PTA’s ban on Wikipedia is appropriate while looking into and recommending alternate technical measures for the removal or blocking of objectionable content on Wikipedia or any other online information sites while keeping in mind the “social, cultural, and religious sensitivities” of the nation.
The committee has been instructed to submit its findings and suggestions for consideration within a week.
It is also entrusted with providing any further recommendations to balance the management of illegal internet material.
Response to ban
The restriction “denies the fifth most populous country in the world access to the greatest free information resource,” according to the non-profit organization operating Wikipedia.
According to a statement, “If it persists, it would deny everyone access to Pakistan’s knowledge, history, and culture.”
Campaigners for free speech have also drawn attention to what they claim is an increasing trend of government censorship of Pakistan’s printed and electronic media.
Digital rights campaigner Usama Khilji said, “There has just been a determined push to establish more control over the information on the internet.
He told AFP that the primary goal was to quiet any protest. Blasphemy is often used as a weapon for that reason, she said.
The nation has also often restricted the hugely popular video-sharing app TikTok in recent years due to its “indecent” and “immoral” content.
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