News / Asia

Pakistan Tightens Internet Controls, Civil Surveillance

Pakistan Tightens Internet Controls, Civil Surveillancei
X
October 09, 2013 10:55 PM
In recent years, Pakistani authorities have been blocking some websites accused of blasphemy or threatening internal security. But critics say those efforts are expanding, and the government is trying to shape online political discussions, curbing the public's access to information and broadening online surveillance. Sharon Behn reports.

Pakistan Tightens Internet Controls, Civil

TEXT SIZE - +
Sharon Behn
— In recent years, Pakistani authorities have been blocking some websites accused of blasphemy or threatening internal security.  But critics say those efforts are expanding, and the government is trying to shape online political discussions, curbing the public's access to information and broadening online surveillance.

The Internet is popular in Pakistan.  Those who can, spend hours on social media or watching music videos, Hollywood updates, movies, sports and news.

But try clicking on YouTube, and it all grinds to a halt.  YouTube is banned in Pakistan.

Pakistan's government blocked YouTube after riots broke over a video lampooning the Prophet Muhammad.

Internet user Muhammad Iqbal said he agreed with the initial ban.  But that it has gone on too long.

"Right now, this ban is totally useless.  And I think the government must take steps to take off the ban on YouTube and go forward," he said.

According to the latest Freedom House report, Pakistan currently blocks not only YouTube, but also a number of social media and communication apps and sites with political, social and religious content.  It is also expanding its surveillance capacities.

Critics said the government has used religion and national security as reasons to block an array of political and progressive content and shape how Pakistan citizens understood their world.

Activist Furhan Hussain of the media advocacy group Bytes For All said his group was involved in two court cases against the government for its censorship and surveillance activities.

"Censorship is just not right in any form.  Moral policing is just not acceptable when it comes to adults living in a democratic setup.  The noose around the communication and the civil society is being tightened by the day, the shrinking civil society space is very obvious.  I don't think this is going to put an end to terrorism, rather it's just going to be counter-productive to a very nascent democracy," said Hussain.

Students at the private Springboard School in Rawalpindi, outside the capital Islamabad, have mixed feelings about the government blocks.  They wanted the freedom to see music videos or academic lectures, but some supported banning what they said was blasphemous or politically contentious content.

But Hashir Mehmood said banning sites like YouTube would only drag Pakistan's development down.

"Other countries can get more information and they can become better than us.  We want to become better of our own problems.  But when the YouTube is down, if it's blocked, what's the point?  We want to learn," said Hashir Mehmood, a student at Springboard School.

Earlier this month, a provincial minister threatened to ban Skype, Viber, and Whatsapp and other social media sites.  Those who know how, use proxies to evade the website bans.  It is less easy to avoid the surveillance software that activist Hussain says is now filling the Pakistani cyberspace.

Government officials did not respond to VOA attempts for comment.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid