Pakistan’s prime minister on Monday ordered authorities to unblock Wikipedia, the government announced, just days after the online encyclopedia was restricted for “blasphemous content”.
Profanity is a sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and social media giants Facebook and YouTube have previously been banned for publishing content deemed sacrilegious.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb tweeted a copy of the order stating: “The Prime Minister is pleased to indicate that the website (Wikipedia) can be reinstated with immediate effect.”
The Wikimedia Foundation – the non-profit fund that manages Wikipedia – told AFP on Monday it had been “notified that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) had been directed to restore access to Wikipedia” and hoped to see online traffic in Pakistan “resume soon.”
Last week, the PTA gave Wikipedia 48 hours to remove content deemed “blasphemous” before finally blocking the website.
A spokesperson for the agency had said on Saturday that Wikipedia would “remain blocked until they remove all objectionable material,” without specifying what content was involved.
According to the order published Monday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had instructed a committee of three government ministers to investigate the PTA’s decision to block Wikipedia.
The commission found that the “unintended consequences of this blanket ban … outweigh the benefits,” said the document, signed by Prime Minister Syed Tauqir Shah’s chief secretary.
Another ministerial committee would be set up to look into the matter further, it added.
“The people of Pakistan rely on Wikipedia both as a source of knowledge and as a way to share their knowledge with others,” said a Wikimedia spokesman.
“The lifting of this ban means that the people of Pakistan can continue to benefit from and participate in the growth within a global movement that strives to spread and share knowledge that is verified, reliable and free.”
The organization did not immediately respond to a question from AFP about whether it had taken any action to remove certain content.
It said in an earlier statement that “The Wikimedia Foundation makes no decisions about what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained.”
“We respect and support the editorial decisions of the community of editors around the world,” it added.
Free speech campaigners have pointed to what they say is a pattern of increasing government censorship of Pakistan’s print and electronic media.
Pakistan blocked YouTube from 2012 to 2016 after it aired a film about the Prophet Muhammad that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world.
In recent years, the country has also blocked the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok multiple times for “indecent” and “immoral” content.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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