West News Wire: The Wikimedia Foundation stated on Saturday that Pakistan has blocked Wikipedia after threatening the user-generated online encyclopedia over what it has called “sacrilegious content.”
Due to content deemed blasphemous, a sensitive subject in Pakistan, a country with a majority of Muslims, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has previously blocked social media giants Facebook and YouTube. Their exclusion was revoked.
A PTA representative told the local media outlet Dawn that the website was disabled on Saturday because it had disobeyed the institution’s order.
Without going into detail about the problematic information, the PTA stated on Wednesday that the website has until late Friday to heed the warning.
The authority continued, “PTA has reduced Wikipedia services in the nation due to not blocking/removing sacrilegious contents.”
The website has previously faced restrictions on some of its pages.
In response to the PTA, the Wikimedia Foundation which runs Wikipedia called on Pakistani authorities to restore access to the website.
“We believe that access to knowledge is a human right. A block of Wikipedia in Pakistan denies the 5th most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository,” it posted on Twitter on Saturday.
“We hope that the Pakistan government joins us 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.”
Pakistanis on social media criticised the decision as a “regressive” move and an embarrassment to the country’s global image.
Freedom of speech advocates have long criticised what they say is creeping government censorship and control of Pakistan’s internet and printed and electronic media.
Pakistan blocked YouTube from 2012 to 2016 after it carried a film about the Prophet Muhammad that led to violent protests across the Muslim world.
In 2020, Pakistani regulators had asked YouTube to immediately block all videos they consider “objectionable” from being accessed in the country, a demand criticised by rights campaigners.
In recent years, the country has also blocked the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok several times over “indecent” and “immoral” content.
The app, owned by China-based ByteDance, has been downloaded millions of times in Pakistan.