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i24 News – Wikipedia became blocked in Pakistan after authorities censored the website on Saturday for hosting “blasphemous content.”

In Pakistan, which has a majority of Muslims, blasphemy is a touchy subject, and social media behemoths Facebook and YouTube have both been previously banned for posting material that was deemed sacrilegious.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia was blocked across the country on Friday “after it failed to respond to our repeated correspondence over (the) removal of the blasphemous content and meet the deadline,” Malahat Obaid, a spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, told AFP on Saturday.

Earlier in the week, the PTA gave Wikipedia a 48-hour ultimatum to remove material – but did not publicly specify its exact objections. “They did remove some of the material but not all,” Obaid said. “It will remain blocked until they remove all the objectionable material.”

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February 4, 2023 10:56 am

An AFP reporter in Pakistan was not able to access the site from a mobile phone on Saturday.

The Wikimedia Foundation – the non-profit fund that manages 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.”

Campaigners for free speech have drawn attention to what they claim is an increasing trend of government censorship of Pakistan’s printed and electronic media.

“There’s just been a concerted effort to exert greater control over (the) content on the internet,” said digital rights activist Usama Khilji. “The main purpose is to silence any dissent,” he told AFP. “A lot of times blasphemy is weaponized for that purpose.”

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