Defenders of Internet Freedom Protest Against Nationwide Government Ban of Facebook
On Wednesday 19th May 2010, the Lahore High Court ordered the banning of Facebook across Pakistan. Facebook is the world's most popular social media network and is used by over 400 million globally. In Pakistan, over 2 million people use Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family, conduct business, manage events, and share photos, news, and other content. A few days ago, a page called "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" was created on Facebook asking users to submit drawings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on 20th May 2010. This page, interpreted as blasphemous, has triggered a nationwide ban on the entire Facebook domain.
While we recognize that sites on the Internet are used to spew hatred and incite violence, we steadfastly believe that governments have no right to control access to information. We believe that every citizen has an inalienable right to freely access information and by censoring Facebook, the Government of Pakistan has taken away that right. This action will have a very negative impact on Pakistan, especially considering that countless small businesses, nonprofit organizations, restaurants, art galleries, magazines, and media outlets use Facebook to conduct day-to-day business and share information with their stakeholders.
In 2006, the Supreme Court of Pakistan banned the entire blogspot.com domain for over 18 months over a similar incident where only one blog carried blasphemous cartoons. Thousands of Pakistani bloggers were deprived of the freedom to express themselves and interact with others. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority now has the ability to block specific pages on the Internet and could have banned just the single blasphemous page. As members of civil society and professionals who depend on social media networks for our daily communications, we demand the immediate restoration of Facebook and an end to Internet censorship by the Government of Pakistan.
We would like to invite you to a press conference to discuss the worrying trend of Internet censorship and the resulting impact on civil liberties and the free and unfettered exchange of ideas and information.
Date: 20th May 2010
Time: 5:00 pm
Venue: Karachi Press Club