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Central & South Asia
Pakistan lifts YouTube ban
Access to YouTube restored, but Facebook remains blocked after cartoon controversy.
Last Modified: 27 May 2010 09:35 GMT
Muslims were outraged after a Facebook page invited cartoons on the Prophet Mohammad  [AFP]

Pakistan has restored access to the video sharing website YouTube, but 1,200 web pages remained blocked for hosting "blasphemous" content.

A number of high profile websites, including YouTube, were blocked by Pakistani regulators last week after the social networking site Facebook hosted a user-generated page inviting cartoons on the Prophet Mohammad, outraging Muslims in the country.

Any depictions of the prophet are considered blasphemous by Muslims.

"YouTube has been unblocked, but the links to sacrilegious content would remain inaccessible in Pakistan," Khurram Mehran, spokesman for the Pakistani Telecommunications Authority (PTA), the country's internet regulator, told AFP on Thursday.

"There are around 1,200 URLs which have been blocked. These are not websites but links," Mehran said.

Angry protests

A Pakistani court had on May 19 ordered that Facebook  be blocked. The PTA implemented the ban on Facebook and also blocked YouTube and restricted access to other websites, including Wikipedia. The PTA's decision to block Youtube was not ordered by the court.

Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, which owns YouTube, said he suspected that suppressing political criticism was a factor in the decision to block the site.  

Protests erupted over the past week, with Muslim protesters burning US flags and shouting "Death to Facebook".

Mamoon-ur-Rasheed, a flag maker in Pakistan, said the row had been good for his business with his replica American flags selling briskly.

"Work gets a boost when international controversy concerning Muslisms breaks out... it is really enjoyable when you see your work on TV screens," Rashid said.

The Pakistani government "strongly condemned" the sketches of Prophet Mohammad and ordered the information technology ministry to "ensure that such blasphemous material is not allowed to appear on the internet in Pakistan".

Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, said Facebook would be back up within days, though pages containing blasphemous material would remain blocked.

Source:
Agencies
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