Islamabad 9/4/2014: Leader of the opposition, Syed Khurshid Shah, Senator Farhatullah Babar, MNA Shazia Marri along with representatives of civil society group “Bolo Bhi” (working on internet rights advocacy) held a press conference to urge for the lifting of the ban on YouTube. This was in reference to Ms. Marri tabling a resolution in the National Assembly to lift the ban on YouTube.

Ms. Marri was informed that the resolution will be brought to the floor on, Tuesday, 8th of April. However, the lack of interest by government members was evident.

Ms. Marri stated: “It is really disappointing that the government is ignoring this issue and finding escape from their responsibility from a very important issue. YouTube is a source of knowledge for a large population of Pakistanis, particularly students and young professionals.”

Adding to this opposition leader, Mr. Khurshid Shah stated that the government must not shy away from its responsibilities.

Representatives of Bolo Bhi, Farieha Aziz and Sana Saleem stated: “It is alarming that PML-N opposed the ban when they were in opposition but have continued the ban for the last year and still refuse to address it.”

Legislators namely Dr. Farooq Sattar and Ali Raza Abidi of the MQM, Shireen Mazari and Arif Alvi of PTI and Senators Mushahid Hussain (PML-Q), Osman Saifullah (PPP) and Afrasiab Khattak (ANP) have been vocal on this issue and all extend their support towards lifting of the ban.

YouTube has been blocked since September 2012. Currently there are 5 petitions challenging the government’s decision in three High Courts. The Minister for Information Technology & Telecommunications, Ms. Anusha Rahman did not appear in court despite being summoned multiple times and only submitted a written response in March’14. PTA (Pakistan Telecommunications Authority) has appeared before the Senate stating there is no way to block content on the Internet 100%. The same was said in court and has been noted in an interim order by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah in the YouTube case at the LHC dated July 2013.

Interstitial screens have been offered to the government of Pakistan by Google, but they have yet to agree. Bangladesh and Afghanistan accepted these screens and lifted the ban last year, while Pakistan remains the only country to have continued the ban on YouTube.

Contact: farieha@bolobhi.org & sana@bolobhi.org