The ban on Youtube which took effect after the release of the blasphemous movie “Innocence of Muslims” has now been in force for more than a year and is constantly being ignored by those at the helm of affairs.
Unfortunately though, it’s not just the government which has remained tight-lipped over the ban, the mainstream media has also conveniently ignored the ban adding to the misery of a crippled nation which in due course of time has forgotten to speak up for its rights.
The ban seems to have become a constant mockery of the way the successive governments work where they prefer to block the mobile networks as a means of thwarting terrorist attacks rather than utilizing more than a dozen security agencies which have turned into fat slimy leaches sucking on the taxpayers blood.
The current ban is longest-running act of online censorship in Pakistan's history.
So the relevant question in such a scenario would be “why the authorities continue to extend the ban on Youtube when they can effectively block the controversial URL’s on the pattern of other countries say Saudi Arabia”?
Every anomalous strategy or mindless silence towards a pertaining issue has, however, a relevant reason.
Youtube gained widespread recognition in the country when the scandalous spot-fixing Pakistani cricketers Muhammad Asif, Salman Butt and their accomplices were shot through a hidden camera and the footage was later broadcasted on Youtube.
This attracted the common man in Pakistan who probably never had accessed the site before. Followed by the revelations, Youtube became the most easily accessible source of bloopers and blunders of the government officials where one can find the Interior Minister Rehman Malik reciting wrong Surah Akhlaas to the video clips where many politicians can be seen making false promises and chanting fictitious slogans in order to fool their vote bank. Youtube became a nightmare for the politicians where one can find Altaf Hussain threatening to produce some more “bori band Lash” (bodies in bags), while the PMLN and PPP politicians contradicting their own statements and justifying their malefied allegiances.
During this mindless spat of censorship on Youtube, media has largely remained silent leaving many unanswered questions over its role as the flag bearer of the freedom of press. Betraying the trust it has been bestowed upon by the millions of Pakistanis, the mainstream TV channels have turned a blind eye over the endless ban on Youtube.
There are medical students who could have benefitted immensely watching live surgeries performed essentially for educational purposes. There are thousands of engineering students who could have benefitted from the various technical and experimental videos uploaded for better understanding of machines and engines and the usability of the thousands of newly developed techniques in research and development.
There are students of business and commerce and arts and literature who have been barred to access latest information on their respective subjects. Youtube remains one of the single most elaborate source of music, movies, dramas, live shows, documentaries, sports events and autobiographies of famous personalities throughout the history.
Arguably though, there can be hindsight of media’s questionable role during the extended ban on Youtube and its controversial role as a speechless spectator during this struggle.
Controlled by the influential anchor persons and reality show hosts, our TV channels have gradually become a slave to the machinations of these tactful gurus who play a crucial role in the ratings of the channels thereby churning out precious bucks for the wealthy owners. Youtube ripped off some of the famous show hosts where one self-proclaimed religious scholar was seen abusing and cursing off-record while there were anchorpersons who were caught discussing a fabricated interview with their guest. So many other self-proclaimed harbingers of truth, honesty and justice were exposed on the site. These media gurus are often termed as the front line soldiers of democracy, rule of law, and freedom of the press. Lifting the mindless ban on Youtube or to speak up against the ban, however, does not serve their purpose for obvious reasons.
Social media in Pakistan has evolved meteorically in the last five years sending shivers down the spines of the otherwise spineless leaders and capitalist cartels of the country. The mammoth growth in the users of Facebook and Twitter etc has given a new impetus to the concept of access to information and the freedom of expression and it will only be prudent of the present government to lift the ban on Youtube, putting in place a structure where the blasphemous material maybe blocked effectively on the likes of various other Muslim countries in the world.