Pakistan blocks Twitter over ‘blasphemy’

by editor | 20th May 2012 2:13 pm

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Chairman of telecommunications authority says site temporarily banned over concerns about material offensive to Islam
Pakistani media said there was no indication as to how long the site would be down [AP]

Pakistan has blocked the micro-blogging website Twitter because it refused to remove material considered offensive to Islam, said one of the country’s top telecommunications officials.

The material was promoting a competition on Facebook to post images of the Prophet Muhammad, Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication’s Authority, said on Sunday.
Many Muslims regard depictions of the prophet, even favourable ones, as blasphemous.

Pakistani newspaper websites said there was no indication as to how long the site would be down.

Yaseen said Facebook had agreed to address Pakistan’s concerns but officials had not been able to get Twitter to do the same, the Dawn and Express Tribune newspapers reported.

“We have been negotiating with them [Twitter] until last night, but they did not agree to remove the stuff, so we had to block it,” said Yaseen.

“The ministry officials are still trying to make them agree, and once they remove that stuff, the site will be unblocked.”

Instructions to temporarily block Twitter came from Pakistan’s ministry of information technology, said Yaseen.

Al Jazeera’s reporters in Pakistan confirmed that they were unable to access the Twitter website on Sunday.

Al Jazeera’s Asad Hashim in Karachi said he could not access the site from his mobile phone, but was still able to see tweets posted earlier in the day. He said it appeared that the ban had therefore come into effect sometime about 8:00GMT (1pm local time).

Members of the Pakistani government were in negotiations with Twitter officials over the issue, the Express Tribune said.

But the paper also quoted PTA spokesperson Colonel Muhammad Younus saying he “does not know anything about the ban”.

Pakistan blocked Facebook for about two weeks in 2010 because of a similar competition.

Follow the issue on Twitter by searching the hashtag #TwitterBan

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