Pakistan blocks YouTube over 'sacrilegious' content

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The Independent Online

Pakistan on Thursday blocked access to the popular video website YouTube in a bid to contain "growing sacrilegious" material one day after banning Facebook for a similar reason, officials said.

"PTA (Pakistan Telecommunications Authority) has directed all concerned operators to shut down website in view of growing sacrilegious contents on it," it said in a statement.

"To avoid appearances of derogatory material available on their websites - which increased in numbers as time passed by, that PTA decided to completely shut down these sites from being viewed within Pakistan," it added.

PTA has so far blocked more than 450 links to derogatory material on the Internet, the statement said.

The government regulatory body called on Facebook and YouTube to get in contact to resolve the matter at the earliest opportunity in a manner that "ensures religious harmony and respect".

The PTA blocked access to Facebook on Wednesday following a court order until May 31 after a private user invited people to send in drawings of the Prophet Mohammed on the social networking site.

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous and Muslims all over the world staged angry protests over the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers in 2006.

Wahaj us Siraj, a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK) and also CEO of Nayatel, a leading service provider, confirmed that PTA had ordered the ban on YouTube indefinitely.

"They ordered the full YouTube site blocked. So that order was implemented by the Internet service providers and Internet backbone providers," Siraj said.

He told AFP that blocking Facebook and YouTube would slash up to a quarter of all Internet traffic in Pakistan.

"These two sites take 20 to 25 percent of the country's total Internet traffic so we are seeing a drop in Internet traffic," he said.

Pakistan briefly banned YouTube in February 2008 in a similar protest against "blasphemous" cartoons of Mohammed.

As a result, YouTube said an Internet service provider complying with Pakistan's ban routed many worldwide users to nowhere for a couple of hours.