Pakistan Blocks Wikipedia after Telecom Body Accuses Site of Blasphemy, Sacrilege

Edited By: Shankhyaneel Sarkar

Last Updated: February 04, 2023, 15:20 IST

Pakistan’s telecom body did not specify to Wikipedia exactly what it wants removed but has asked the platform to remove sacrilegious articles from the site (Image: Reuters/Representative)

Pak Blocks Wikipedia: Pakistan’s telecom body failed to specify which content it deems blasphemous. Instead, it chose to block Wikipedia completely in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s telecommunications body on Saturday banned Wikipedia for failing to remove or block ‘sacrilegious’ content from its website within the 48-hour deadline given to the website. The Dawn confirmed that the site was blocked citing a spokesperson from the PTA.

Wikipedia is used by millions of people across the world for information and research purposes and people in Pakistan, the world’s fifth-most populous nation, also depend upon the website.

It must be noted that the services of Wikipedia were first ‘degraded’ on Wednesday. Reports from Bloomberg and GeoTV indicated that while some were able to access the websites via their internet service providers (ISPs), some found their access to be blocked.

The Pakistani telecom body did not specify to Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation that runs Wikipedia, what content it wants removed. “A block of Wikipedia in Pakistan denies the fifth most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository. If it continues, it will also deprive everyone access to Pakistan’s knowledge, history, and culture,” Wikimedia Foundation said in a statement.

The regulator said the website had neither responded to its requests, nor taken down the content in question.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) spokesperson Malahat Obaid told Dawn: “The decision can be reviewed once Wikipedia removes sacrilegious content that has been identified by the regulatory authority”.

The Wikimedia Foundation addressed the issue on Friday and said that decisions regarding content on Wikipedia and its maintenance are not being controlled by them.

“We hope that the Pakistan government joins with the Wikimedia Foundation in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restores access to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly, so that the people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world,” Wikimedia said in its statement.

The PTA remains adamant and said that Wikipedia’s reluctance to remove sacrilegious content was ‘intentional’ in nature.

The PTA earlier issued similar orders for social media websites like TikTok.

Blasphemy and sacrilege are hot button issues in Pakistan and offences are punishable by death. There have been cases where individuals have been lynched to death for alleged acts of blasphemy.

Digital rights activists in Pakistan have slammed the move. Usama Khilji, in a tweet, decried the move and said: “Wikipedia, World’s largest encyclopaedia, appears to be blocked in Pakistan by PTA. Courts and regulators must realise that Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced platform where anyone with an account can edit articles, which they can also do instead of blocking the entire website.”

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