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Pakistan unblocks YouTube after three-year blasphemy ban

Website created local version of the popular video-sharing website

ucanews.com reporter, Islamabad

ucanews.com reporter, Islamabad

Published: January 19, 2016 10:39 AM GMT

Updated: January 20, 2016 03:17 AM GMT

Pakistan unblocks YouTube after three-year blasphemy ban

Pakistan has unbanned YouTube after it built a dedicated version of its website for the majority Muslim country. (Photo by Bulent/AFP)

Pakistan lifted a three-year ban on YouTube on Jan. 18 after the launch of a localized version of the popular video-sharing website, a move welcomed by church officials. 

"Google has recently launched a country (localized version) of YouTube (YouTube.pk) and confirmed that YouTube.pk does not contain any known copies of the blasphemous movie Innocence of Muslims," said a statement issued by Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology.  

The government imposed the ban to comply with a court order that sought to prohibit online content considered blasphemous by Muslims such as the low-budget film, Innocence of Muslims.  

The ban was strongly condemned by digital rights activists, who denounced it as media censorship.

 

Ban was 'futile'

Father Peter Shangara, editor of the Faisalabad Diocese's online newspaper, welcomed the government's decision to lift the ban. 

"The ban shouldn't have been imposed in the first place as it was a futile exercise. People were still accessing YouTube through proxy sites," he said.

"There are a lot of controversial and objectionable things on the internet. Instead of banning them, the government should have launched a campaign to educate people on how to ignore offensive material," Father Shangara said.  

The priest said that YouTube was also a source of income for many users, who were badly hit by the ban. 

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"You may find anti-Christian content online. Shall we demand the blockage of internet?" he questioned. 

The YouTube ban was put in place in September 2012 after the film Innocence of Muslims, sparked violent protests in Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of more than 20 people. Thousands of protesters took to the country's streets, calling for the execution of the U.S. filmmaker. 

Mere allegations of making derogatory remarks about Islam's prophet, the Quran, or holy figures can spark mob attacks or lynching of suspects.

A 15-year-old boy cut off his own hand believing he had committed blasphemy in Okara town, Punjab province in mid-January. The boy then presented his hand to his village cleric.

Speaking before at the local mosque, the cleric had asked people to raise their hands if they don't love the Prophet Muhammad. The boy misunderstood the question and mistakenly raised his hand. The imam then pointed to the youth as a "blasphemer."

Police have since arrested the cleric for inciting violence.

Pakistan's religious minorities have especially complained about the misuse of harsh blasphemy laws. A former Punjab governor and a federal Christian minister were assassinated in 2011 for seeking amendments to blasphemy laws.

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