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'Internet freedom' under threat as Pak Govt. demands automated filtering

Islamabad, Wed, 18 Apr 2012 ANI
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Islamabad, Apr 18 (ANI): Broadband operators of Pakistan have agreed to implement an automated URL filtering system, which has left proponents of internet freedom worried.

The Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (Ispak), in an email, has confirmed its support for the National URL Filtering and Blocking System, which will allow mass blocking of websites that contain 'blasphemous' and 'pornographic' content, as well the websites which may 'pose a threat' to 'national security'.

However, Ispak authorities have argued that the current manual censorship process would not pose any threat to internet freedom. "There is nothing wrong with the concept and the system wouldn't compromise the performance of the Internet," the Express Tribune quoted, Ispak Convener, Wahajus Siraj, as saying.

Internet activists, on the other hand, have an entirely different view of the proposed system which they sometimes refer to it as Pakistan's equivalent to the Great Fire Wall of China.

Pakistan Telecommunication Association (PTA) Chairman, Muhammad Yaseen has been quoted, as saying, that the publication and promotion of 'blasphemous', similar 'immoral' material 'discomforts' the majority of Pakistan's population, and "the government needs to address their concerns."

"There is no denying the advantages of the internet, but the same should not be at the cost of religious norms," he added.

However, Sana Saleem, a blogger at The Guardian, Global Voices and Dawn, and the person who is leading a campaign against internet censorship from her blog Bolobhi, said there is no legislation governing internet censorship, and the government has also not given assurances about transparency and accountability in the working of the proposed system. (ANI)

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