KARACHI: Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday sought comments from secretary of Ministry of Information Technology and chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on a petition challenging blanket ban on a video-sharing website YouTube.
A division bench headed by Justice Irfan Saddat Khan was seized with the hearing of the petition jointly filled by as many as 24 citizens belonging to different strata of society including students, teachers, and bankers.
They requested the court to declare the censorship and arbitrary blanket ban on certain sites such as YouTube in Pakistan as a blatant violation of the fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan.
The petitioners said that it was duty of the government to safeguard the Internet, a medium of expressions and speeches like print and electronic media, from censorship and ensure open and free access to it.
They said that censorship of video-sharing platforms like YouTube have a disastrous impact on Pakistani students, teachers, entrepreneurs and other professionals using YouTube for educational, religious, commercial or entertainment purposes.
PTA could ban specific URLs instead of placing blanket ban on YouTube.
It is submitted that while many countries – both, those with a Muslim majority and those where Muslims are a minority – including Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, India, Maldives, have banned the URLs with the objectionable film, only Pakistan persisted with a blanket ban on YouTube to the detriment of its citizens and their fundamental rights.
They said that the government has also curbed citizens right to privacy as protected by virtue of Article 14 of the Constitution by blocking proxy web sites. Proxy websites are used all over the world by people who are conscious of their online privacy and also by those who wish to keep their important, personal details, such as bank accounts, personal communication/correspondence, away from the prying eyes of the Internet service providers and other hackers, they added.
Government’s decision of blocking proxy sites is not reasonable but is also illogical, illegal and unconstitutional.
The petitioner said that arbitrary abuse of executive power by government in form of censorship of the internet by banning without assigning any reasons, hundreds of thousands of websites used by students, writers, journalists, doctors, and other professionalisms was sheer violation of the Constitution.
They requested the court to direct PTA to desist from any further violation of these fundamental rights and to immediately lift all such bans and censorship detrimental to the fundamental rights of all citizens of Pakistan.
During the hearing on Wednesday, federal law officer Aslam Butt sought time to file comments of federal government in the petition. The court while adjourning till May 7 the case directed petitioners to place before it a list containing names of sites, which were informative and have blocked.