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Wikipedia has been blocked in Pakistan

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Wikipedia has been blocked in Pakistan

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The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) on Saturday blocked the online encyclopedia site Wikipedia across Pakistan because according to the body and according to a Pakistani court it hosts “blasphemous content” for Islam, which is the state religion in the country and therefore “illegal”. The PTA had already restricted access to Wikipedia on Wednesday and told the encyclopedia to remove such content within 48 hours to avoid a permanent block, which Wikipedia did not do. The Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that takes care of the encyclopedia’s online presence, has asked the PTA to remove the blockade, which “denies the fifth largest country by population in the world access to the largest repository of free-access information”.

It is not known which content has been deemed blasphemous by the Pakistani authorities because the PTA has not released any information about it. In Pakistan, blasphemy is a crime and a deeply felt topic by the Pakistani Muslim majority. Accusations of blasphemy are quite frequent and have led to the blocking of various online platforms in the past, including dating apps Tinder and Grindr; it had happened to the social networks Facebook and YouTube, which were then unblocked. YouTube in particular had been inaccessible in Pakistan from 2012 to 2016.

The PTA spokesman said Wikipedia would remain blocked in Pakistan until it removed content deemed blasphemous. “They only removed some of the material,” he added. The Wikimedia Foundation has also stressed that it does not make decisions about which content is on Wikipedia and which is not: it is the user community that decides by discussing it on the site.

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The PTA’s decision was also criticized by Pakistani digital rights activists, including Usama Khilji who has speaking with Al Jazeera noted that blocking a platform with millions of pages is an exaggerated countermeasure to counter the spread of some content. “The main goal is to silence any form of dissent,” Khilji said a BBC“often the crime of blasphemy is exploited for this purpose”.

In Pakistan, the English version of the encyclopedia receives more than 50 million visits every month according to reports from the Wikimedia Foundation, which also said that there is a large community of Pakistani Wikipedians who collaborate in writing, updating and proofreading articles .

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