Pakistan bans 'obscene' SMSes

2011-11-18 22:36
Islamabad - Texters in Pakistan better start watching their language.

Pakistan's telecommunications authority sent a letter ordering cellphone companies to block text messages containing what it perceives to be obscenities, Anjum Nida Rahman, a spokesperson for Telenor Pakistan, said on Friday.

It also sent a list of more than 1 500 English and Urdu words that were to be blocked.

The order was part of the regulator's attempt to block spam messages, said Rahman. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority refused to comment on the initiative.

Many of the words to be blocked were sexually explicit terms or swear words, according to a copy of the list obtained by The Associated Press.

It also included relatively mild words like "fart" and "idiot".

The reasons for blocking some terms, including "Jesus Christ", "headlights" and "tampon", were less clear, raising questions about religious freedom and practicality. Any word could conceivably be part of a spam message.

The letter, which was also obtained by the AP, was dated November 14 and gave cellphone companies seven days to implement the order.

Rahman, the Telenor spokesperson, said her company first received the letter on Thursday and was discussing how to proceed.

"It's a big issue, so it is being examined carefully from all points of view," said Rahman.

The letter said the order was legal under a 1996 law preventing people from sending information through the telecommunications system that is "false, fabricated, indecent or obscene".

It also stated that free speech can be restricted "in the interest of the glory of Islam".

Under pressure from Islamists, Pakistan has blocked pornographic websites and ones deemed anti-Islamic. In 2010, it temporarily banned Facebook because of material on the site deemed offensive to Islam.
- AP
Read more on:    pakistan  |  mobile
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