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Pakistan’s Supreme Court Hints at Ban on YouTube

by Staff Report

File photo. Nicolas Asfouri—AFP

During proceedings of unrelated case, judge claims YouTube videos are ‘instigating’ public against Army, judiciary, government

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday alleged that social media platforms were filled with content inciting hatred against Pakistan’s institutions, and warned that if the content could not be removed, they should be banned.

Hearing a case against Shaukat Ali, a man accused of a sectarian crime, Justice Qazi Ameen switched focus to YouTube, alleging that the platform hosted content that instigated the public against the Army, the judiciary and the government.

“Was action taken against those who committed this crime?” he asked officials of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), questioning if the FIA and the regulatory watchdog had noticed this. “On YouTube and social media, even our families are not being spared [from criticism],” he said, noting that while the judiciary respected freedom of speech and it was the right of the public to comment on the judiciary’s performance and judgments, this right had a short leash. “Our salaries come from the public’s money, [but] the Constitution gives us the right to our private lives,” he added.

“We gave a verdict yesterday and today it’s already [being commented on] YouTube,” he said, claiming everyone acts like an expert on social media. “There are several countries where YouTube is banned. Try uploading content against America and the European Union,” he said, seemingly ignorant of the plethora of videos criticizing every aspect of both those entities on YouTube.

Responding to the queries, PTA authorities said they could not remove “individual content but could only report it.”

The court then issued notices to the attorney general of Pakistan and the Foreign Office, and adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period.

Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry, while not directly referring to the proceedings, posted on Twitter that any bans on social media should be avoided. “Courts and PTA must stay away from moral policing and ban approach,” he said. “Such bans on internet based apps will destroy Pakistan’s technology industry and development of technology would be permanently hampered. We are still not out of woods because of judges’ ill-advised interference in economic matters,” he added.

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