PTA blocks Wikipedia across Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Saturday blocked online encyclopaedia Wikipedia across the country for failing to block or remove “sacrilegious content”.

On Wednesday, the PTA degraded Wikipedia for 48 hours with the instructions to block or remove the reported content.

On Friday, the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity that runs Wikipedia, issued a statement that read: “On February 1, we received a notification from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority stating ‘the services of Wikipedia have been degraded for 48 hours’ for failure to remove content deemed ‘unlawful’. As of February 3, our data shows this has extended into a full block.”

It continued that a block of the platform in Pakistan would deny the fifth most populous nation in the world access to the “largest free knowledge repository”.
It added that the blocking of Wikipedia would “deprive everyone access to Pakistan’s history and culture”.

It hoped that the Pakistani government would join it in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restore access to Wikipedia promptly “so that the people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world”.

“We believe that access to knowledge is a human right,” the statement added.
Earlier, the authority warned Wikipedia that not complying with its orders to remove the “sacrilegious content” would lead to the online encyclopaedia being blocked within Pakistan.

“Wikipedia was approached for blocking/removal of the said contents by issuing a notice under applicable law & court order(s). An opportunity of hearing was also provided, however, the platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the authority,” the PTA said in an earlier statement.

“The restoration of the services of Wikipedia will be reconsidered subject to blocking/removal of the reported unlawful contents. [The] PTA is committed to ensuring a safe online experience for all Pakistani citizens according to local laws,” it added.

Wikipedia is a free, crowdsourced, and editable online encyclopaedia.
It is commonly used as a starting point by millions across the world for basic information.

Users in Pakistan come across “this site cannot be reached” when trying to access the website.

This is not for the first time the authority has taken notice of objectionable content on Wikipedia. In December 2020, the PTA had issued notices to Google Inc and Wikipedia on account of disseminating “sacrilegious content” through the platforms.

Pakistan blocked YouTube from 2012 to 2016. In recent years, the country has also blocked the video-sharing app TikTok several times over “indecent” and “immoral” content.

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