ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked the Wikipedia online encyclopedia in the country for not removing “sacrilegious content,” local media reported on Saturday, citing a PTA spokesperson.
Wikipedia, hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, a free, crowdsourced encyclopedia used by millions across the world for basic information on virtually everything.
The PTA this week degraded Wikipedia services across Pakistan for not complying with the directives and gave it a 48-hour deadline for the removal of controversial content from the website.
On Sunday, PTA spokesperson Malahat Obaid told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper the ban had primarily been imposed for non-compliance with the orders.
“The decision can be reviewed once Wikipedia removes sacrilegious content that has been identified by the regulatory authority,” Obaid was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Upon trying to log on to the Wikipedia website, users are met with a message: “this site can’t be reached.”
Pakistan, the second-largest Muslim-majority country in the world, has banned video streaming platforms and dating apps in the past on charges of spreading “immorality” or promoting “blasphemous content.”
In September 2020, Pakistan blocked Tinder, Grindr and three other dating apps for not adhering to local laws, with the PTA saying it had taken the decision to curb the “negative effects of immoral/indecent content streaming.”
In November 2021, a Pakistani court reversed a ban on short-form video hosting service TikTok after the government assured it would monitor “immoral” content on the app with the company.
Similarly, the South Asian country banned YouTube in 2012 after an anti-Islam film was uploaded to the site. The ban was finally lifted in 2016 after remaining in place for years.
Following the degradation of Wikipedia services, Usama Khilji, a director at the Bolo Bhi advocacy forum for digital rights, said the regulator needed to understand how crowdsourced platforms worked and that any user was free to upload content on these forums.
“Blocking an entire encyclopedia with millions of valuable pieces of information is counterproductive and will only impact Pakistani citizens’ right to information and access to knowledge and education,” he told Arab News.
Khilji said such policies of the PTA contributed to making Pakistan a “more regressive and backward country.”