Pakistan blocks YouTube over 'blasphemous' videos

Telecommunication authorities blocked popular website over Islam's depiction in Dutch cartoon and film.

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Pakistan has ordered all Internet service providers to block the YouTube website for containing "blasphemous" content and material considered offensive to Islam, officials said Sunday.

An inter-ministerial committee has decided to block YouTube because it contained "blasphemous content, videos and documents," a government official told Agence France-Presse. "The site will remain blocked till further orders."

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told the country's 70 Internet service providers Friday that the popular website would be blocked until further notice, the Associated Press reports.

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The authority did not specify what the offensive material was, but a PTA official said the ban concerned a movie trailer for an upcoming film by Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has said he plans to release an anti-Koran movie portraying the religion as fascist and prone to inciting violence against women and homosexuals.

The PTA official, who asked not to be identified because he was not an official spokesman, said the PTA also blocks web sites that show controversial drawings of the prophet Muhammad.

Some 12 cartoons published in September 2005 by the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper sparked riots in the Islamic world.

In the latest in a series of demonstrations over the cartoons in Pakistan, hundreds of hard-line Islamists in the southern city of Karachi torched effigies of the Danish prime minister and the cartoonist on Sunday, witnesses said.

"It is a deliberate attempt to malign Islam and hurt the feelings of Muslims," Habib Shah Kerani told the protesters from the Anjman-e-Islam (Organiazation of Islam) group.

Reporters Without Borders, a press advocacy organization, released a statement Saturday, saying, "It should not be up to the PTA to order this kind of blocking. Such a decision should be taken by the courts, not by a body that is under the government's control."

Pakistan's regional daily, The News, reported, "people wondered whether the youtube.com blackout was connected to some other videos that had been uploaded to the site on Thursday. These videos implicated a certain political party in 'election rigging' and showed party activists stamping ballot papers en masse."

Pakistan is not the only country to have blocked access to YouTube.

In January, a court in Turkey blocked the site because some video clips allegedly insulted the country's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It is illegal to insult Ataturk in Turkey. Last year, the site was banned in Thailand and Morocco.

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