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Pakistan Blocks Wikipedia

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Pakistan temporarily blocked Wikipedia.org following their earlier blockage of the blogger.com domain. Dr Awab Alvi, who has been running the ‘Don’t Block the Blog’ Campaign from Pakistan reports the blockage.

Today, 31 March 2006, the entire domain of Wikipedia.org, the free online encyclopaedia was blocked because one article of the massive 3.5 million topics covered on the website contained information pertaining to the controversial cartoons on the Prophet Muhammad. While the block appeared to be limited in duration, having been lifted at 20:00 (PST) seven hours after the initiation, the real issues remain about the future censorship of education and knowledge in Pakistan.

A month back, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocked access to upwards of 10 million websites being hosted on the blogspot.com domain, following a Supreme Court order issued on March 3rd condemning the controversial Danish cartoons. The judicial order instructed the PTA to regulate only 12 offending websites that were promoting the cartoons on the Prophet Muhammad. One of the offending websites happened to be hosted on the domain www.blogspot.com. The PTA, as the supreme controlling body of internet access in Pakistan, entirely blocked access to upwards of 10 millions websites.

Such blockades are of little value, given that smart surfers can proxy their way around the blockade, as explained by KO in an analysis of the Pakistani Internet Censorship on Desicritics. It also illustrates the inability of nations to realize that the Internet and information in general, transcends borders, ideologies, and control.

The lifting of the ban is no solace for information-freedom mavens. The ability to take information away from public gaze is all too common. It was also reported earlier that Google China blocks much that was commonplace, from the image of the Dalai Lama to news about protests in mainland China.

It couldn’t happen here, though, could it?

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