Pakistan Blocks Twitter Over Cartoon Contest

The government in Pakistan banned Twitter for promoting a "blasphemous" cartoon contest on Facebook through Twitter on Sunday. 

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The government in Pakistan banned Twitter for promoting a "blasphemous" cartoon contest on Facebook through Twitter on Sunday.

A cartoon contest was bring held on Facebook asking for users to submit pictures of the Prophet Muhammad, and the Pakistani government asked both social networks to take down the material. Facebook agreed to help, and said they would remove the "blasphemous" content. Twitter didn't respond, so the government blocked access to the site. "We have been negotiating with them until last night, but they did not agree to remove the stuff, so we had to block it," said Mohammad Yaseen, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication’s Authority. Depictions of prophets are frowned upon by a lot of Muslims.

Many Pakistani Twitter users used proxy servers to get around the ban and complain about it on Twitter, according to the Guardian. Human rights officials aren't pleased with the ban, either. Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times the ban is, "ill-advised, counterproductive and will ultimately prove to be futile as all such attempts at censorship have proved to be." He added that, "The right to free speech is nonnegotiable, and if Pakistan is the rights-respecting democracy it claims to be, this ban must be lifted forthwith. Free speech can and should only be countered with free speech."

Update: Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik released a statement, hilariously, over Twitter announcing that he spoke to the Prime Minister who has restored the country's access to the website. He did say the images were hurtful, and that he was still asking Twitter to take them down.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.