Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday ordered the immediate restoration of the Wikipedia website that was banned by the country’s telecom regulator last week citing failure to remove “sacrilegious content.” Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Wednesday warned Wikipedia of blocking its services if it failed to adhere to their order.
“The action was taken because some of the content is still available on Wikipedia after the expiry of a 48-hour deadline,” Malahat Obaid, spokesperson for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, told Bloomberg.
Even before the blanket ban of the website, the country’s telecom authority degraded Wikipedia services countrywide. In the most recent development, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) handout published on February 6 stated that Shehbaz held discussions with a committee of the ministries to conduct an initial investigation.
The handout also said that the committee met and that its members discussed how Wikipedia supported the dissemination of knowledge and information for the public, students, and the academics. “Blocking the site in its entirety was not a suitable measure to restrict access to some objectionable content,” the PMO statement said. “The unintended consequences of this blanket ban, therefore, outweigh its benefits.”
After committee’s recommendations, PM Shehbaz ordered the website’s quick restoration and established a special cabinet committee including the ministries of law, information, commerce, and communication under the leadership of Aminul Haque, the IT minister.
In addition, the committee would consider social, cultural, and religious sensibilities while considering alternative technological means for the deletion or banning of undesirable content on Wikipedia and other online information sites.
Wikimedia Foundation in its argument said that it does not make choices about what information is allowed on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained as it is “by design” to ensure that articles are the result of many individuals coming together to choose what information should be provided on the web, resulting in “richer”, more unbiased articles.
“We believe that access to knowledge is a human right. 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 history and culture,” it had said.
It added, “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.”
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