The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has lifted the ban on Wikipedia in Pakistan after intervention of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
The decision was made after a three-member ministerial committee comprising of Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, Minister for Economic Affairs and Political Affairs Ayaz Sadiq, and Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, had recommended the restoration of the online encyclopedia.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for immediate restoration of Wikipedia in Pakistan.
Wikipedia is a free crowdsourced platform, which is referred to as an online encyclopedia, that is the go-to platform for basic information on almost all topics.
On February 1, the PTA had announced that Wikipedia services had been “degraded” in Pakistan over the platform failed to remove sacrilegious content on the regulator’s request.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) banned Wikipedia completely after it failed to respond to the regulator’s two day notice, which sparked an outrage amongst netizens in the country.
Following the development, the matter was presented before the Prime Minister, who constituted a committee for a preliminary examination of the issue.
The committee had decided that blocking Wikipedia would do more harm than good as it was a website that disseminated knowledge and information for the general public, students and academia.
“Blocking the site in its entirety was not a suitable measure to restrict access to some objectionable contents/sacrilegious matters on it. The unintended consequences of this blanket ban, therefore, outweigh its benefits,” the statement read.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the recommendation of the committee directed the PTA to immediately restore Wikipedia in the country.
However, the PM has constituted a new cabinet committee to look into the matter more closely. The committee will be comprised of Minister for Law and Justice, Minister for Economic Affairs and Political Affairs, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Minister for Commerce, Minister for Communication, and Minister for IT and Telecommunication.
The aim of the committee will be to review sustainability of PTA’s ban on Wikipedia in Pakistan and explore alternative measures of removing or blocking any objectionable content from such information sites, while keeping in view the “social cultural and religious sensitivities” of the country.
Wikipedia Responds to Ban in Pakistan
According to a statement from the Wikimedia Foundation, “On 1 February, we received a notification from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority stating the services of Wikipedia have been degraded for 48 hours’ for failure to remove content deemed unlawful.”
It added that as of February 3, Wikipedia has been fully blocked in Pakistan in addition to all services if offers. It continued that blocking the platform in Pakistan denies the fifth most populous country in the word from access to “largest free knowledge repository” and would “deprive everyone access to Pakistan’s history and culture.”
As per Wikimedia Foundation, “In Pakistan, English Wikipedia receives more than 50 million pageviews per month, followed by Urdu and Russian Wikipedias.” It added that is a sizable and engaged community of editors in Pakistan that contribute historical and educational content.
The platform clarified that it “does not make any decision around what content is included on Wikipedia or how that content is maintained.” It added that it is by “design to ensure that articles are the result of many people coming together to determine what information should be presented on the site.”
“We hope that Pakistan government joins with the Wikimedia Foundation in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restore access to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly, so that people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world.” it concluded.