PM’s approval sought to reopen YouTube

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to reopen social media website YouTube soon in Pakistan, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has dispatched a summary to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, seeking necessary approval prior to his departure to United States, The Nation learnt on Saturday.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is scheduled to visit New York on 23rd of this month to attend the UN General Assembly session and is due to fly to USA today (Sunday). During his weeklong stay in the US‚ the Prime Minister will address the UN General Assembly on 27th September in which he is set to highlight Pakistan’s point of view on various regional and international issues, besides domestic priorities.

Sources in telecom sector privy to the development told this scribe that YouTube is likely to reopen soon across the country as the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has dispatched a summary to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. They said that ostensibly necessary measures and arrangements to point out and immediately block the unbearable material from the Internet has been completed. And, with this, the sacrilegious material would be blocked or filtered with the assistance of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL). A committee constituted by the ministry has already given his green signal to go ahead and recommended to reload the website, they added.

Since the incumbent PML-N government has sworn in power, it has been seriously contemplating over the controversial matter very sensitively to reopen the YouTube. A research had also been initiated by the telecom ministry to determine the YouTube links, which contained the sacrilegious movie, and also for blocking mechanisms for other URLs and links on both the Http and the secure Https protocols to ensure the restraint of controversial content.

During the last week of August last, Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rahman Khan while taking to the media persons also said that YouTube would open soon and a cell has been established in PTA to point out and immediately block the unbearable material from the Internet. She also said that a team comprising experts was working hard round the clock to block the sites containing blasphemous material and about 4000 such sites have already been blocked. She said that the government was working on the issue involving blockage of YouTube and a committee consisting of 14 members had deeply worked on the matter and had put forwarded some recommendations for consideration to resolve the matter permanently. The committee recommended the government to open the website, she added.

The minister also said that with the help of free of cost filters from Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) a trial was conducted and 4,000 URLs had been blocked successfully. She also informed the journalists that a response cell in PTA has also been established to monitor and immediately block the blasphemous material on the Internet following the refusal of the Google Inc. management to block those URL that contained unbearable material, she added.

The Google Inc had so far declined to cooperate with the government of Pakistan in removing unpleasant material from the websites and the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan that found blasphemous material on the website ordered to suspend the YouTube in Pakistan. Moreover, the last government to quell simmering protests appeared after the release of anti-Islam amateur film “Innocence of Muslims”, had blocked YouTube in Pakistan in 2012. And, a decision to close YouTube in Pakistan was also taken by the Inter-Ministerial Committee. In accordance, the IT ministry ordered PTA to block the websites. Similarly, a policy directive was also issued by the ministry in May 2012 and advised the PTA to deploy a state of the art technical solution to proactively and independently block blasphemous and pornographic matters from the websites.

Interestingly, the IT ministry had earlier also taken up the matters with the management of YouTube and Facebook for blocking the blasphemous content from websites. In response, Facebook had restricted the access and upload of the video on the website. But, the Google Inc did not remove the sacrilegious content by saying that YouTube complies with international laws that are subject to the laws of United States that, however, do not comply with Pakistan-specific content removal request.

The Nation