Pakistan blocks Twitter over Prophet

2012-05-20 19:17

Islamabad - Pakistan blocked Twitter on Sunday over a competition to post caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on the social networking site, officials told AFP.

"The website has been banned by Ministry of Information Technology and the decision was conveyed to us. There was blasphemous material on Twitter," said Mohammad Younis Khan, spokesperson for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Asked about the nature of the "blasphemous" content, Khan said there had been a planned competition to "post caricatures of Prophet Mohammed".

Dawn newspaper said the material in question was promoting a competition on Facebook which involved posting images of the Prophet.

It said that while Facebook agreed to address concerns over the competition, Twitter had so far failed to comply with the PTA's requests to remove the content.

"The ministry officials are still trying to make them agree, and once they remove that stuff, the site will be unblocked," PTA chair Mohammad Yaseen was quoted as saying.

Responding to the furore around the ban, one Twitter user, @vinodvyas, wrote: "Now billions of ppl know there exists a competition to draw Prophet."

Islam strictly prohibits the depiction of any prophet as blasphemous. Muslims across the globe staged angry protests over the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in European newspapers four years ago.

In 2008, a suicide attack outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad killed eight people. Al-Qaeda claimed the attack to avenge the cartoons.

A court in Pakistan blocked Facebook in 2010 because of a similar competition organised by an anonymous Facebook user who called on people to draw the Prophet to promote "freedom of expression".

The competition sparked a major backlash in the conservative Muslim country, where even moderate Muslims were deeply offended by the drawings that appeared on the "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day" Facebook page.

The competition saw Facebook blocked for almost two weeks in May that year after a petition by a group of Islamic lawyers. The PTA also banned YouTube for a week and restricted access to other websites, including Wikipedia, lashing out against "growing sacrilegious" content.

The government at the time said it would conduct monitoring of major websites for anti-Islamic content.

Read more on:    twitter  |  facebook  |  pakistan  |  censorship  |  social media

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