YouTube has been banned in Pakistan since 17 September, after riots triggered by the “Innocence of Muslims”, an inflammatory clip on the video-sharing site. Last week, I wrote a short piece for the Independent about the ban. I’ve also covered the issue in more detail for Dawn. As the piece explains, the YouTube ban is just the tip of the iceberg, with the government using the unrest to usher in a system that would allow them to censor the internet on a wide scale.
Just 20 million people out of Pakistan’s 187 million strong population have access to the internet, making digital rights a niche concern. However, despite this limited audience, being online has brought innumerable benefits to Pakistan, enabling entrepreneurship and economic growth, facilitating education and academic research, and encouraging communication. Increased censorship and the associated impact it will have on the basic human rights of freedom of expression and access to information should be a concern for everyone. As Saleem says, “It’s just another step to becoming a police state and a more closed society than we already are.”