Pakistan's ban on YouTube lifted

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pakistan has lifted a ban on the video-sharing website YouTube, which was said to be brought in after a video offensive to Islam was uploaded to the site. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the offending material was in relation to a trailer for a film by Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician.

The PTA ordered the country's 70 internet service providers to ban YouTube. However, their actions mistakenly blocked the site on other international ISPs, preventing many countries' access to the popular site for around two hours.

Wilders is expected to release a movie about violence in Islamic culture. The film called Fitna would be set 'inside' the Koran, with a book frame surrounding the images and a mix of Koran verses with footage of executions and other violence in Islamic countries such as Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fear that the release of the movie might trigger a worldwide surge of violence. It is expected that the film will show the destruction of a Koran, which is "tantamount to heresy" in Islam, according to the FBI/DHS report. The Dutch Prime Minister has said that the movie has caused a serious crisis situation, with several Dutch embassies and companies abroad worrying about safety. Wilders has previously declared that the Koran should be banned, and he has compared it to Hitler's Mein Kampf.

The PTA has also blocked websites depicting the controversial cartoons of Muhammad published by a Danish newspaper in 2006 that also sparked violence in the Muslim world. Some of the cartoons have recently been reprinted.

This is not the first time a country has moved to block YouTube. Turkey and Thailand both chose to temporarily ban the sites, as did Morocco which blocked the site after a video criticising the country's treatment of Western Saharans was uploaded.