The Pakistan govenment has been attempting to censor the Internet, in fits and starts over the years. Pakistan has a long history of censorship, from banning books & magazines to shutting down newspapers and jailing journalists. In the early 2000’s internet usage took off in Pakistan, bringing it to the attention of the government. Sadly, the government has been trying to restrict access to the internet by monitoring and filtering all internet traffic, in the process slowing internet speed for everyone, and violating basic human rights, as specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Pakistan is a signatory to.
See the Wikipedia article for a good overview of Internet Censorship in Pakistan. Another website, Pakistan 451 is following these censorship attempts as they happen. I wrote about internet censorship in Pakistan here. Teeth Maestro has been very active against the censorship, and started a campaign Don't Block the Blog. The Society Against Internet Censorship in Pakistan has also been very active in spreading about the word about the block, and has been spreading the news in Pakistan and outside, in the hope that increased awareness will lead to the govt. backing off on its censorship drive. While a few days back it appeared that the block had been lifted (for blogspot.com), the block is back in place yet again.
The Supreme Court and Government of Pakistan have obviously an extremely limited understanding of the Internet, and do not grasp what exactly they have done. They are still thinking along the lines of traditional media, made up of books, newspapers and magazines, and probably think they have blocked certain ‘bad’ issues, and that everything else will be accessible as usual.
Most, if not all people savvy enough to operate a computer are easily able to bypass any technological blocks the govt. puts up. At best, the various censorship solutions the government will implement over the next few years will discriminate between the technological haves and have-nots.
It is sad to see Pakistan walk down that same road. At best, attempts to censor the internet will give the censors a false sense of security that they are doing something, while slowing down the internet for the entire country, as well as further degrading its image throughout the world. On an email list Dr Awab Alvi says
The problem is not all that simple – Pakistan is constantly in a battle with India to gain a competitive edge in the IT sector, all outsourcing coming into the region may at first look at the tremendous cost saving potential in Pakistan, but when the bureaucracy gives mixed signals on simple IT issues, the company naturally looks at the greener pastures across the border, a govt ready to adapt to change with the blink of an eye, to ensure they continue to become an IT leader in the region.
The internet, although a network in name and geography, is a creature of the computer, not the traditional network of the telephone or television industry. It will, indeed it must, continue to change and evolve at the speed of the computer industry. Trying to impose artificial barriers on the internet is akin to building sand castles on the beach – sand walls can’t stop the spray of information coming over the walls, and the next wave of technology will completely overwhelm the entire castle.
A short list of banned websites:
All websites hosted at blogspot.com, www.balochvoice.com, www.baloch2000.org, www.balochfront.com, www.sanabaloch.com, www.hinduunity.com and a number of websites hosting content deemed blasphemous by the government.