Tuesday, March 21, 2023

PM Shehbaz Sharif orders immediate restoration of Wikipedia


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister (PM) Shehbaz Sharif has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to “immediately” restore online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, which was banned for not “blocking/removing sacrilegious content”, ARY News reported on Monday.

According to a statement issued by PM’s Office, the matter of blocking Wikipedia by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) was placed before the Prime Minister today.

The statement said that the prime minister then constituted a committee comprising the law, economic affairs and information ministers for “preliminary examination of the matter”.

The ministerial committee in its meeting reviewed the matter and declared that Wikipedia was a beneficial website used by students, researchers, and other sections of society. “It was not appropriate to take down the whole website and steps should be taken for removing objectionable material,” they noted.

“Blocking the site in its entirety was not a suitable measure to restrict access to some objectionable contents/ sacrilegious matter on it. The unintended consequences of this blanket ban, therefore, outweigh its benefits,” the statement added.

Later, PM Shehbaz Sharif ordered the immediate restoration of Wikipedia and also constituted a separate cabinet committee headed by IT Minister Aminul Haque and comprising the law, information, commerce, and communication ministers.

The committee would review the step taken by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to stop access to the website. The committee would suggest measures to ban objectionable material and stop access to such content.

The committee would also suggest ways for banning content that was against social, cultural and religious norms and sensitivities. Ministry for Information Technology would provide secretarial services to the committee.

Read More: Pakistan degrades Wikipedia services over ‘sacrilegious content’

It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked Wikipedia services in the country after the platform failed to remove blasphemous content.

In a statement, the PTA said that Wikipedia was approached for the removal of the blasphemous content by issuing a notice under applicable law and court order(s).

“The platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the Authority,” the statement read.


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