Unblock YouTube

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Appeasing the extremists has already done enough harm

Several times during the last eleven months there were indications from the government that it was going to remove the ban on YouTube. But fearing strong reaction from its extremist sympathisers, each time the government developed cold feet and postponed the decision. The PML-N leadership needs to come to terms with the fact that we live in a global society where bans of the sort can only isolate the country. What is more they feed extremist tendencies. YouTube is a treasure trove of information and is an important part of the social media. With its numerous videos on myriads of subjects including the various branches of science, history, geography and even mathematics, it has been of immense use for the student community and the teachers. For music lovers, from soul music to classical, semi classical, folk and pop, everything is available at a few clicks. It has helped budding artists to learn drawing without the help of expensive tutors. The political parties had started to rely increasingly on YouTube to engage with their followers. To block it amounted to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

The rationale behind blocking the YouTube is questionable. The site does not force the viewers to visit controversial uploads. Those who complain of injurious material should resist the temptation to access it. Bans are of no use as viewers keen to access banned sites can do so, albeit through a somewhat tedious process.

YouTube was banned in Pakistan in September 2012 when a man with a diseased mind uploaded on it the trailer of a highly substandard movie called “Innocence of Muslims”, which injured the feelings of the Muslim community all over the world. If no note was taken by the anti-blasphemy brigade, few would have ever known about the existence of the movie and even those who opened the site would have found it more repulsive than entertaining. Banning the YouTube is like closing down an entire library which happens to have just one objectionable book.

On Tuesday, the National Assembly unanimously supported a resolution presented by a PPP MNA to unblock the YouTube. The government however continued to harp on the so called ‘sensitivity’ of the issue. Is Pakistan the only Muslim country where people have sensitivities? What about Saudi Arabia where viewers watch three times as much YouTube as their peers in the US? Turkey only banned it this year not on account of public sensitivities but for leaking recordings considered politically damaging by the administration. After the National Assembly has called for lifting the ban, the PML-N should pick up the courage and unblock the site. Appeasing the extremists has already done the country enough harm. It’s time the government dropped the policy.

15 COMMENTS

  1. This got nothing to do with religion. Govt has banned YouTube on the back of fear from Arab spring. YouTube and social media and the kind of disaster of governance that exist in Pakistan, makes Pakistan ripe for a change and thats what our rulers fear!

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