LAHORE - Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Sunday announced unblocking of social media sites after 37 hours of their nationwide suspension.
Till late on Sunday night, despite PTA announcement to unblock Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, websites remained out of access.
In the wake of police and Frontier Constabulary-led operation against Faizabad sit-in participants, the government put a complete blanket ban on social networking sites depriving social media users of access to their right of information.
Internet, digital rights activists and civil society representatives condemned the ban on social media. Nighat Dad, founder of Digital Rights Foundation told The Nation that countrywide ban on social media network and TV channels was not in accordance with the principles of freedom of expression.
“The government is justified in ensuring the security of Pakistani citizens. However, there is always need to strike a balance between censorship and security,” Nighat said.
“Many social media users were using proxies to access social media sites. They did not want to remain in dark about what was happening in Pakistan and around the globe. But then they posed a danger to their accounts as they were accessing the sites from other countries through VPN and other proxies. In this modern age, you cannot stop access of people to their right of information,” Nighat explained.
Farzana Mumtaz of South Asia Partnership-Pakistan said that their organization strongly condemned the ban on social media. “It is totally undemocratic, unconstitutional, unethical and against the people’s right to access the information when there is such a critical situation in the country.
“It’s the violation of basic human rights. We will always remember it as a black day in entire media history especially on the occasion of 53rd anniversary of PTV,” she said.
Ali Ahsan, cofounder of MangoBaaz website said, “We, at MangoBaaz, are not able to reach their target audience. “Yes it’s unfortunate that there are a lot of people that won’t be able to readily access our contents since we rely on social media platforms a lot.” “Fortunately, we do have a loyal audience that comes to our platform directly so we’re not too worried, especially since the ban is only temporary,” he said.
Media houses opted innovative ways to provide information to the people. Saama TV and some other channels websites were not working so they sent news videos via Whatsapp groups.
The Turkey NetBlocks, an internet shutdown observatory project, in coordination with the Digital Rights Foundation has conducted the survey to collect evidence of nation-wide internet disruptions throughout Pakistan during the ban. The investigation sought to determine the extent of restrictions.
Between 16:00 pm and 11:00pm on 25th November 2017, measurements from 121 unique vantage points distributed through 16 ASNs (Autonomous System Numbers) covering major cities and regions in Pakistan were collected, geolocated and anonymised via the NetBlocks web probe measurement network.
The report on Twitter and Facebook use was restricted by checking connections provided by mobile operators Mobilink, Zong, Telenor, Ufone and fixed providers PTCL, Witribe, Zong and Cybernet.
According to data, it was indicated that YouTube restrictions were only partially implemented, suggesting that many internet users in Pakistan were still able to access the video streaming service.
A controlled set of international news websites remained reachable, indicating that the restrictions were targeted to suppress social media coverage of the unrest.