Pakistan court again orders websites blocked

ISLAMABAD Wed Jun 23, 2010 3:51pm BST

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani court ordered restrictions reimposed on video sharing network YouTube and eight more websites blocked for showing material deemed offensive to Muslims, a lawyer said on Wednesday.

The other websites are Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, Google, Islam Exposed, In The Name Of Allah, Amazon and Bing.

If enforced, all major web-based email services, every major search engine and the top shopping site on the Internet would be blocked in Pakistan.

Any representation of the Prophet Mohammad is deemed un-Islamic and blasphemous by Muslims, who constitute the overwhelming majority in Pakistan

A judge in the eastern city of Bahawalpur directed authorities on Tuesday to impose the latest restrictions because the sites contained "blasphemous material against Allah, Prophet Mohammad and the Koran," said Latif ur Rehman, a lawyer who filed the petition seeking the measures.

"The court issued the orders after I placed blasphemous material recorded on compact discs from these websites before the court," he told Reuters by telephone.

Rehman said the judge, Mazhar Iqbal Sidhu, ordered officials of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to appear before him with all "relevant records" on June 28.

"The Ministry of Information and Technology, through its secretary, is directed to issue direction to the chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority ... to block the websites mentioned," Rehman said, reading from the court's order.

A spokesman for PTA said they had not yet received any instructions from the government to block the sites. An official at the Information Technology ministry said they would comply with the court's written order once they received it.

"It's like blocking the highway, cutting Pakistan off from the rest of the world," Wahaj-us-Siraj, convener of Pakistan's Internet Service Provider Association, told Reuters.

"Such a decision should have been taken by a technical authority, not by a court which is not trained for that."

Last month, authorities acting on a court decision blocked social network Facebook, YouTube and several other sites for almost two weeks amid anger over a page that encouraged users to post images of the Prophet Mohammad to protest against threats made by a militant Muslim group.

Five people were killed in protests in Pakistan in 2006 over publication of cartoons deemed blasphemous by Muslims in Danish newspapers a year earlier.

(Additional reporting by Asim Tanveer in MULTAN and Kamran Haider in ISLAMABAD; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Paul Tait)

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