Pakistanis petition against govt Internet censorship

Petitioners criticize government's blocking and censorship of Web sites and online forums with political content, and urge courts to ensure no online content is blocked without prior notice to owners, report states.

The High Court of Sindh province in Pakistan capital Karachi has issued notices to the country's Ministry of Information Technology and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) about a petition challenging the censorship and blocking of Web sites and online forums with political views, according to a report.

In a press release Tuesday, a group of seven individuals including corporate lawyer Ayesha Tammy Haq, filed a petition accusing the PTA of illegally blocking and censoring access to various Web sites and online forums which criticized the workings of the state institutions.

According to The News International on Wednesday, the report added that the criticisms were usually over government policies, large expenditures and budgetary allocation to the armed forces.

The petitioners stated that the censorship was illegal and the Web sites had been blocked without informing the owners. They also believe that the PTA is intending to develop a national level URL filtering and blocking system for the country, which they state, will be used to suppress constructive criticism and the circulation of information which can benefit the general public. 

The petitioners also urged the court to direct the respondents to make sure that no Web site, online publication, forum or any other content can be blocked without prior notice, and that public objections should be invited before such actions were taken.

The PTA had published a request for proposals for the national URL filtering and blocking system last month. It also blocked access to 13,000 "obscene" sites in February, and also stepped up its enforcement of a ban on private communications in the country last August, reminding Internet service providers (ISPs) to report customers who used encrypted virtual private networks (VPNs).