Pakistan Partially Unblocks Access to YouTube

Pakistan relaxed its block on YouTube on Wednesday evening, but a similar ban on Facebook remains in place.

The country's telecommunications regulator, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), last week ordered operators to block YouTube, citing sacrilegious content on it.

While the authority is removing its blanket ban on YouTube, objectionable links on the site will remain blocked, PTA spokesman Khurram A. Mehran said in an email on Thursday.

On May 19, the Lahore High Court ordered the PTA to block Facebook until May 31. It was ruling on a petition by a lawyers' organization in Pakistan which objected to a page on the web site called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" that invited users to draw cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

There were also large protests on the streets of Pakistan against the page and Facebook.

Depictions of the prophet are prohibited in some Islamic traditions.

The block on Facebook on May 19 was followed the next day by a block of the YouTube web site. About 450 other links on the Internet were also blocked because of derogatory content, the PTA said.

In a post on Wednesday on his recently opened Twitter account, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the Pakistan cabinet accepted his proposal at a meeting on Wednesday to block only the objectionable sections on Facebook and YouTube.

However the block on Facebook is not likely to be removed until the Lahore High Court decides on the lawyers' petition on May 31, as it is still under judicial review, according to Mehran.

Facebook said in a statement last week that it was disappointed with the Pakistani court's decision to block Facebook without warning. It said that it was analyzing the situation and the legal considerations, and will take appropriate action, which may include making the content inaccessible to users in Pakistan.

Facebook has already made the page inaccessible in India, at the request of Indian authorities.

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