2013 a frustrating year for online freedom in Pakistan
Pakistan's online freedom's have become increasingly limited in the country as a result of government limitations on access to content.
Governments around the world play an important role when it comes to Internet freedoms in the U.S. This is due in part to various legislation that regulates what people can and cannot access. However, there are multiple stakeholders that are affected by such policies. Internet providers are often put in a difficult position when the government imposes strict regulations as they try to balance the requests of the government along with the satisfaction of their customers. But often times, the people who are most impacted by such action are netizens themselves.
This is because there are numerous opinions on what kind of content should and should not be posted. Many online activists that believe that the Internet should be a network that provides access to almost anything a person would like, while others feel that there should be limitations based on certain moral and societal implications.
The major problem that comes from this conflict in opinion is that certain rhetoric can be used to limit access to certain content. This problem has cropped up in numerous countries throughout the globe, including Pakistan.
A frustrating year
The Index on Censorship reported that the Pakistani online community did not have much to feel good about during 2013. In September 2012, YouTube was blocked in the country because of the uploading of "The Innocence of Muslims," and stayed unaccessible through 2013. Then in May 2013, another video site, Vimeo, was blocked after a band uploaded a song that was critical of military generals in Pakistan.
These kinds of practices have also been growing more common as more content continues to be published that the government seems to not agree with. For instance, a young child in the state was accused of blasphemy because of the content that he shared on Facebook, while websites like the Internet Movie Database have also been blocked, though in the latter case, the ban was lifted following citizen reactions.
Reasons behind censorship
According to Al Jazeera, Pakistan has been using terrorism as rhetoric to implement these kinds of restrictions, both online and in other walks of life.
The news source noted that in the case of YouTube, a sort of compromise is looking to be created, however, this is not necessarily a positive. The country's IT minister is working with Google to create a version of YouTube within the country. Unfortunately, this would allow the government to suppress views that run counter to the the government, and limit content, such as the video that appeared on Vimeo, was critical of the military government. It could also be used to censor criticism of politicians.
Internet is "not free"
The sentiments of these news sources are echoed in a report from Freedom House. The organization ranked the country's internet as "Not Free" with a ranking of 67, with 100 being the worst possible score a country can obtain. Unfortunately, this ranking only got worse over the last year. The country's ranking in 2012 was 63, a time when the internet was still not free.
This trend is certainly discouraging as the state of journalism and society as a whole continues to move online. Many important discussions about politics can occur online, both in Pakistan and the world as a whole, meaning that having free and open connections is essential to making important progress on this front. If the country is to see greater democracy both in society and online it needs to curb such policies in order to make for a freer discourse.