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Pakistan to continue ban on YouTube

Islamabad:  Five months after YouTube was banned in Pakistan for hosting clips from a controversial anti-Islam film, authorities have said there are no plans to remove restrictions on the popular video-sharing website in the immediate future.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology on Thursday that the government has no intention of unblocking YouTube.

YouTube was blocked in mid-September last year on the orders of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for hosting clips from "Innocence of Muslims", a video deemed offensive to Islam.

The government acted after violent protests against the film erupted across the country.

The parliamentary panel was informed that the Interior Ministry sent two letters to the IT Ministry last year to provisionally remove the block on YouTube.

The letters also asked the Information Technology Ministry to remain vigilant by deputing more personnel to monitor sites like YouTube and Facebook for blasphemous or offensive videos.

The letters stated that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had recommended that YouTube should be unblocked because of 'public demand'. Both letters were subsequently withdrawn.

PML-Q lawmaker Humayun Saifullah said PTA should be given authority to block all websites with pornographic or anti-state material.

The parliamentary committee said the Information Technology Ministry should hold consultations with PTA and take action.

PTA informed the parliamentary panel that nearly 750 links to "Innocence Of Muslims" and over 4,900 websites with pornographic material had been blocked.

PTA said it had also blocked nearly 600 websites with "anti -state" material.

Pakistani authorities lifted the ban on YouTube for less than an hour on December 29 before reinstating restrictions after a right-wing journalist reported that clips from the anti-Islam film were still available on the website.

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