Increasing restrictions on online freedom of expression (FoE) in Pakistan is becoming order of the day as the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), monitoring Internet, blocked a website of gay people.
The PTA justified the move in the name of religion with its spokesman confirming the decision was taken upon “complaints” from Internet users.
www.queerpk.com site was shut down on Wednesday (25 September 2013).
It was “against Islam,” Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) spokesman Kamran Ali told media in Islamabad on Thursday (26 September 2013).
“We are concerned at increasing curbs on online freedom of expression in the country, and demand the PTA to review its ban to respect the FoE, a fundamental right of every individual,” Freedom Network, Pakistan’s first media watchdog organization monitoring violations of freedom of the press and freedom of expression, reacted to the site ban.
The website helps members of homosexual and transgender community in Pakistan socialize and share experiences, according to the web moderator.
“Access to the website was halted after complaints from Internet users,” the PTA spokesman was quoted as saying.
The PTA spokesman justified the decision saying “the site is blocked under the law because its content is against Islam and norms of Pakistani society.”
The website’s moderator, meanwhile, quickly redirected the site to another URL to help members and public visit the site on Thursday.
Pakistan has declared homosexuality “illegal.”
The website’s moderator tweeted that the ban would not be challenged in the courts to avoid “negative reaction.”
“We wanted to provide a platform for people who are being abandoned by society because of their sexual likes,” Dawn newspaper, meanwhile, quoted the moderator as saying. “I was not hopeful about the future of the website, I was convinced that sooner or later it would be banned.”
He said the site had a mix of members, with 44 per cent identifying themselves as female and 56 as males, according to Dawn newspaper.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that Pakistan was among the least tolerant of homosexuality among 39 countries surveyed.
YouTube, web-based video sharing site, is also shut in Pakistan since 17 September 2012 for reason that YouTube management is not removing what the PTA officials say blasphemous contents and video of ‘The Innocence of Muslims,’ a film considered blasphemous in the Muslim world.
“We condemn the massive censorship being put in place in Pakistan, and the government’s implementation and use of a filtering system to curb citizens’ online freedoms,” Reporters Without Borders said in its 17 September alert issued jointly with Pakistani organization Bytes for All.
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