Postcard from... Islamabad


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The Independent Online

YouTube – which, of course, brought you Gangnam Style, Justin Bieber and innumerable clips of cats flushing toilets – has been blocked in Pakistan since 17 September, when riots swept major cities.

The unrest was triggered by a short trailer for the film The Innocence of Muslims. Criticising Islam and the Prophet Mohamed, it caused violent protests across the Muslim world in which scores were killed. In Karachi, at least 25 died and six cinemas were burnt to the ground.

Acting on a Supreme Court order, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) began to block links to the video. But it was uploaded on YouTube so many times that their attempts were futile. The government demanded that Google block the clip from being accessed. It refused, saying that it did not have an agreement with Pakistan for such a block.

Access to the video has been restricted in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Indonesia, Malaysia and India, where agreements exist.

The response from Pakistan was to ban the website until "blasphemous content" is removed. Sudan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Iran implemented similar blanket bans of YouTube. The deadlock has lasted over a month.

While PTA officials originally said the ban could go on indefinitely, the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, has hinted that YouTube could reopen, minus the controversial content. Its return will be welcomed – and not just for clips of people falling over. Schools, businesses and universities all use the website.