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Pakistan bans Wikipedia for hosting ‘blasphemous content’

Pakistan has blocked Wikipedia after authorities censored the website for hosting “blasphemous content” in the latest blow to digital rights in the conservative nation.

The online encyclopedia 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 said.

The PTA had earlier in the week given Wikipedia a 48-hour ultimatum to remove material and warned Wikipedia that if instructions were not followed, its services would be blocked within Pakistan.

“They did remove some of the material but not all,” Obaid said. “It will remain blocked until they remove all the objectionable material.”

The Wikimedia Foundation — the non-profit fund managing 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,” a statement said.

Concerns of rising censorship

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and social media giants Facebook and YouTube have previously been banned for publishing content deemed sacrilegious.

Pakistan blocked YouTube from 2012 to 2016 after it carried a film about the Prophet Mohammed that led to violent protests across the Muslim world.

In recent years, the country has also blocked the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok several times over “indecent” and “immoral” content.

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