A Ban Again?

The previous three-year ban on YouTube in Pakistan was an infamous occurrence.
It was the chief inhibitor in the growth of digital content. Now there is again
talk of banning YouTube in the country.

By Daniyal Talat | October 2020

In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has strongly advised a ban on YouTube. The service provider was banned in Pakistan in 2012 after the posting of a fiery video. It started fierce protests across the Muslim world. The ban was lifted in 2016 after an agreement between the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and YouTube. Under the agreement, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had the option to ask YouTube to expel any material it esteemed hostile. A government statement said: “Our government will put all out efforts to promote Digital Pakistan. The future of Pakistan is very exciting.”

In an ongoing turn of events, while hearing the case of a man accused of a sectarian crime, a YouTube ban was hinted at again. During the hearing, Justice Qazi Amin commented that everybody turns into our ‘uncle’ on YouTube; they do not pardon our families either. He said that the appointed authorities do not have any issue with the freedom of expression. In any case, the right to an individual’s life is likewise given to us by our Constitution.

He inquired whether the FIA and the PTA had seen the contents of YouTube? In response, the PTA authorities said they could not bring any specific content down and could only just report it.

Following this, many users took to social media to communicate their contempt before any choice could be made. Comedian Zaid Ali tweeted: “YouTube should be banned in Pakistan”. Through his sarcastic sense of humour, Zaid expressed his rage by adding, ” So we don’t advance as a nation. So, kids cannot educate themselves online. So, our digital industry does not thrive. So those sole earners from YouTube can lose their jobs.” He pointed out how things would turn out if YouTube were banned. He concluded, “So we can show the world how smart we are”.

Tania Aidrus, the Prime Minister’s former special assistant on Digital Pakistan, also expressed her concerns on Twitter. “Banning a platform like YouTube is not a solution. The three years YouTube was banned in Pakistan held back our content creator ecosystem which has now just started to flourish – creating employment opportunities for thousands.”

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