Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Wikipedia Running Again as Pakistan Lifts Ban

Tue 07 Feb 2023 | 12:51 PM
Israa Farhan

Pakistan lifted its ban on Wikipedia services before dawn Tuesday after the country's media regulator blocked the site last week for failing to remove alleged blasphemous content, claiming it hurt Muslim sentiments.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the ban to be lifted late Monday night, according to a government statement. 

The site was banned on Friday by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, after the deadline Pakistan gave Wikipedia to remove the controversial content expired.

The ban sparked criticism and many Islamabad's actions, saying it was a blow to digital rights and denied the public the right to seek knowledge.

As anger mounted, Pakistan's Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Monday that Sharif's five-member panel had looked into the matter and ordered Wikipedia's services to be restored immediately.

The government has not provided any explanation or details about the content it deems anti-Islam, and the media regulator has never explained what content is allegedly hurting the feelings of Muslims in Pakistan.

Under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, anyone guilty of insulting Islam or its figures can be sentenced to death, although the country has yet to carry out the death penalty for blasphemy.

However, even allegations of crime are often enough to spark mob violence and even deadly attacks. International and domestic rights groups say blasphemy accusations are often used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

The Wikimedia Foundation welcomed the lifting of the ban. Its statement said the lifting of the ban "means that the people of Pakistan can continue to benefit from and participate" in the growth of a global movement “to spread and share knowledge that is verified, reliable and free."

In the past, Pakistan briefly banned TikTok twice for uploading immoral content. Also, in 2008, Pakistan banned YouTube over videos depicting the Prophet Muhammad, sparking angry protests nationwide as Muslims consider any physical depiction of the Prophet blasphemous.