Pakistan, which was in the news last year for blocking Facebook over a “Draw Mohammad Day” competition, is seeking to ban the social network again due to the second round of the same competition, reports Pakistan Today.
Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, presiding over the Lahore High Court, ordered the Ministry of Information and Technology to block access to Facebook nationwide on the charge of “spreading religious hatred on the Internet”. The court also directed the ministry to police the Internet and block all other websites that were found guilty of the same charge, but it spared search engines like Google (which it is targeting for other reasons).
The complaint had been filed by Muhammad Azhar Siddique of the public interest litigation firm Muhammad & Ahmad, who labeled social networking websites such as Facebook blasphemous and accused them of “hurting [the] feelings of billions of Muslims”. The high court, upholding some of the demands of the petition, has directed the ministry to submit a report of the successful implementation of the ban by October 6th.
The offensive group was titled “2nd Annual Draw Muhammad Day – May 20, 2011” and has since been removed by Facebook. However, it does not seem like that action is going to have any effect on the ban. Of course, freedom of speech campaigners form only a tiny part of Facebook; the banning of the site can have a significant impact on the life of Pakistan’s citizens who depend on it to keep in touch with their family and friends, and Pakistani developers of apps for the platform.
The high court has not specified any date for the lifting of the ban, so it remains to be seen when, and if, the people of Pakistan will be able to use Facebook again.