Access Should Not Be Victim To Hate Speech

For Immediate Release

Karachi, September 18, 2012: In response to protests following the release of a movie trailer, Innocence of Muslims, the Prime Minister of Pakistan issued a notification to block access to YouTube until the company agreed to stop hosting the video.

The video, seemingly created solely to provocate, has angered many. Globally, the content of the movie is being labelled as malicious, born out of ignorance and simply unworthy of the attention it is getting.  Yet violent protests and bans have brought it more attention that it would have received, sparking curiosity rather than encouraging people not to view the video.

Banning YouTube, we feel, is no solution to the problem. Just like the ban on Facebook in 2010 and subsequently Twitter earlier this year, these bans achieve little in concrete terms. They only deprive one’s own citizens of access while the malicious content remains accessible to the rest of the world.

Increasingly, the government is resorting to blanket bans as the preferred way of dealing with issues of this nature without realizing that by restricting access to its citizens, it also denies its people the opportunity to register their protests on the same forums used to spread malice. Secondly, the government is ignoring the vast number of businesses and educational ventures that rely on such platforms and suffer the consequences of such ad-hoc bans.

The government should register its protest without infringing upon fundamental rights.  We demand the immediate reversal of the ban. In protecting the sanctity of religion, the government must also protect the rights of its citizens to earn a livelihood and seek education which is infringed upon by such bans. It is imperative that these rights – not freedoms or privileges – are safeguarded by the government (see Articles 4, 9, 10-A, 18, 19, 19A, 20 and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan).

Bolo Bhi means ‘Speak up’, in Urdu. We are a not-for-profit geared towards advocacy, policy and research in the areas of gender rights, government transparency, legislation, Internet freedom, digital security, privacy and empowerment. We believe it is crucial to bridge the gap between rights advocates, policy makers, media and citizens. It is by bridging this gap that one can move ahead to chart a way forward and resolve issues through consensus, in a way that is mutually beneficial.

Contact: Sana Saleem


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