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Digital WorldPakistan

Pakistan blocks Wikipedia over 'sacrilegious' content

February 4, 2023

Pakistani authorities have banned the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia for not removing content they call blasphemous.

Wikipedia logo
Pakistan blocked the online encyclopedia Wikipedia for hosting "blasphemous content"Image: Christoph Hardt/Geisler/picture alliance

Wikipedia was blocked in Pakistan on Saturday after authorities censored the online encyclopedia for hosting "blasphemous content."

Earlier in the week, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) told Wikipedia it had 48 hours to block or remove content or access to the site would be cut off.

"An opportunity of hearing was also provided, however, the platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the authority," a spokesperson for the PTA said.  

The spokesperson added that Wikipedia will remain blocked in Pakistan until it removes "all the objectionable material."

it was not immediately clear exactly what content the PTA wanted to be blocked.

Fighting for more diversity at Wikipedia

Attack on freedom of speech

The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit fund managing Wikipedia, said the block "denies the fifth most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository."

"If it continues, it will also deprive everyone access to Pakistan's knowledge, history, and culture," a statement said.

The regulator's decision triggered an outcry, and free speech campaigners have highlighted a pattern of rising government censorship of Pakistan's printed and electronic media.

"There's just been a concerted effort to exert greater control over content on the internet," digital rights activist Usama Khilji said.

Internet censorship in Pakistan

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and social media giants have previously been banned for posting content deemed sacrilegious.

Pakistan blocked YouTube from 2012 to 2016 after it carried a film about the Prophet Mohammed that led to violent protests across the Muslim world.

In recent years, the country has also blocked the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok several times over "indecent" and "immoral" content.

Similarly, the PTA banned popular dating apps including Tinder over content deemed immoral and indecent, and streaming app Bigo for immoral, obscene and vulgar content.

dh/sms (AFP, dpa)