Don’t Block the Blog

Speaking up Against Internet Censorship, the world over

May 20, 2012

Twitter Blocked in Pakistan – Permanently or Weekend Testing?

As of 1:00pm Sunday Twitter.com has become inaccessible to all users in Pakistan. Practically all ISP’s have reports of users complaining of twitter.com being inaccessible. Ever since the reports emerged we have asked affected users to help test the site from their ISP connections and within minutes we had hundreds of reports The traceroute shows a very interesting fact, the block is at the DNS level, the url is not resolving right from the get go

traceroute twitter.com
traceroute: unknown host twitter.com

When you do a simple traceroute for yahoo.com

traceroute yahoo.com
traceroute: Warning: yahoo.com has multiple addresses; using 72.30.38.140
traceroute to yahoo.com (72.30.38.140), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
1 192.168.0.10 (192.168.0.10) 2260.190 ms 0.864 ms 0.705 ms
2 203.99.169.18 (203.99.169.18) 24.729 ms 24.442 ms 21.330 ms
3 10.0.2.6 (10.0.2.6) 43.865 ms 43.745 ms 43.108 ms
4 203.99.170.234 (203.99.170.234) 46.673 ms 46.131 ms 45.280 ms
5 rwp44.pie.net.pk (221.120.253.1) 45.757 ms 46.353 ms 43.939 ms
6 rwp44.pie.net.pk (221.120.254.38) 43.749 ms 44.675 ms 44.910 ms
7 static-khi-ni01-swa.pie.net.pk (202.125.128.162) 44.823 ms 44.716 ms 45.713 ms
8 khi77.ptcl.net.pk (202.125.129.110) 181.540 ms 179.108 ms 180.835 ms
9 ge-1-3-0.pat1.ams.yahoo.com (195.69.145.110) 175.123 ms 176.314 ms 176.563 ms

Shows that the pings head to PIE [Pakistan Internet Exchange] in Rawalpindi then to the Karachi PIE server before heading out to Yahoo. Twitter does not even get beyond the first hop

My gutt feeling is that PTA is just testing their URL Filtering system, we had reports of them testing some image servers on facebook last week, and it disappeared by the evening. PTA choose Sunday to avoid any legal backlash exploiting the courts day off. I also dont buy into the argument of Express News that the access to Twitter was blocked due to an ongoing “competition” of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) caricatures. As no one knew about this “in Pakistan” and it was an unknown issue on twitter to target this portal on Sunday afternoon, there seems to be no evidence to come to that conclusion and feel Tribune should be careful in making such sweeping statements on such a sensitive issue can spark an outlash. I definitely believe they are testing their system. Though the civil society has to its credit a stay order on the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority preventing them from blocking websites obtained on 19th April 2012 which can be used against them.

Once they get through these testing days I am sure it can be later used as and when needed. Though the argument presented by PTA is that it needs this technology to crack down on Terrorism related issue, but one may never know when it can be used for political censorship

April 19, 2012

STAY GRANTED: Constitutional Petition Preventing PTA from Blocking of Websites

On the 17th of April 2012, seven individuals, Dr. Awab Alvi, Sana Saleem, Faisal Kapadia, Nazim Haji, Naeem Sadiq, Noman Quadri and Ayesha Tammy Haq, through their lawyer Haider Waheed with Basil Nabi Malik, petitioned the High Court of Sindh at Karachi challenging the arbitrary and random acts of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in blocking/ censoring and restricting access to various websites in violation of the fundamental rights of the owners of the websites/online forums as well as the public at large, and without affording the aggrieved persons an opportunity of being heard or due notice.

It was prayed in the said petition that no website could be blocked/ censored or restricted without affording the aggrieved parties (including the public at large) due notice and an opportunity to be heard in accordance with Articles 4, 9, 10-A, 18, 19, 19A, 20 and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, read with Section 6 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Act, 1996.

The Honorable High Court of Sindh issued notice to the Federation of Pakistan, through the Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, through its Chairman, and furthermore ordered the PTA not to block any website other than in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996.

It may be noted that as per the PTA Act, the correct procedure to be followed before blocking or censoring of websites is as per Section 6 of the said Act, which states,

Section 6:  Responsibilities of the Authority.—In exercising its functions and powers under this Act, the Authority shall ensure that—

  • Rights of licensees are duly protected;
  • All of its decisions and determinations are made promptly, in an open equitable, non-discriminatory, consistent and transparent manner;
  • All applications made to it are disposed of expeditiously;
  • The persons affected by its decisions or determinations are given a due notice thereof and provided with an opportunity of being heard;
  • Fair competition in the telecommunication sector exists and is maintained
  • The interests of users of telecommunication services are duly safeguarded and protected.

The said petition has not been made to stop the banning of any website or forum contrary to the rules already laid out by the PTA but has instead the objective of bringing the entire process under judicial review to insure its fairness, transparency and to provide a proper system of redress of the parties owning these websites and forums and protect the fundamental rights of the public at large, including internet users, in Pakistan.

Media Contact: Ayesha Tammy Haq
Email: ayeshatammy@gmail.com
Twitter ID: @tammyhaq

April 10, 2012

Join the Constitutional Petition for Protecting our Fundamental Rights Online

On the 17th of April 2012, seven individuals, Dr. Awab Alvi, Sana Saleem, Faisal Kapadia, Nazim Haji, Naeem Sadiq, Noman Quadri and Ayesha Tammy Haq, through their lawyer Haider Waheed with Basil Nabi Malik, petitioned the High Court of Sindh at Karachi challenging the arbitrary and random acts of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in blocking/ censoring and restricting access to various websites in violation of the fundamental rights of the owners of the websites/online forums as well as the public at large, and without affording the aggrieved persons an opportunity of being heard or due notice.

It was prayed in the said petition that no website could be blocked/ censored or restricted without affording the aggrieved parties (including the public at large) due notice and an opportunity to be heard in accordance with Articles 4, 9, 10-A, 18, 19, 19A, 20 and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, read with Section 6 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Act, 1996.

The Honorable High Court of Sindh issued notice to the Federation of Pakistan, through the Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, through its Chairman, and furthermore ordered the PTA not to block any website other than in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996.

It may be noted that as per the PTA Act, the correct procedure to be followed before blocking or censoring of websites is as per Section 6 of the said Act, which states,

Section 6:  Responsibilities of the Authority.—In exercising its functions and powers under this Act, the Authority shall ensure that—

  • Rights of licensees are duly protected;
  • All of its decisions and determinations are made promptly, in an open equitable, non-discriminatory, consistent and transparent manner;
  • All applications made to it are disposed of expeditiously;
  • The persons affected by its decisions or determinations are given a due notice thereof and provided with an opportunity of being heard;
  • Fair competition in the telecommunication sector exists and is maintained
  • The interests of users of telecommunication services are duly safeguarded and protected.

The said petition has not been made to stop the banning of any website or forum contrary to the rules already laid out by the PTA but has instead the objective of bringing the entire process under judicial review to insure its fairness, transparency and to provide a proper system of redress of the parties owning these websites and forums and protect the fundamental rights of the public at large, including internet users, in Pakistan.

Media Contact: Ayesha Tammy Haq
Email: ayeshatammy@gmail.com
Twitter ID: @tammyhaq

July 29, 2011

Rolling Stones being Blocked in Pakistan for questioning the Army

Rolling Stones blocked in PakistanJillian York reported on Al-Jazeera that Rolling Stones Magazine is being blocked in Pakistan for quoting Thomas Friedman’s column on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

The Pakistani ruling bargain is set by the Pakistani Army and says: “We let you civilians pretend to rule, but we will actually call all the key shots, we will consume nearly 25 percent of the state budget and we will justify all of this as necessary for Pakistan to confront its real security challenge: India and its occupation of Kashmir. Looking for Bin Laden became a side-business for Pakistan’s military to generate U.S. aid.”

It was reported on the APC website as well, while running a few Herdicts reporting and sourcing the twitter sphere in Pakistan confirm that the websites are blocked in Pakistan

March 12, 2010

World Day Against Cyber Censorship in Pakistan

As a long time activists working for a free and open Internet in Pakistan, I would like to join Reporters Sans Frontieres in highlighting the World Day Against Cyber Censorship today 12th March. This event is intended to rally everyone in support of a single Internet that is unrestricted and accessible to all. It is also meant to draw attention to the fact that, by creating new spaces for exchanging ideas and information, the Internet is a force for freedom.

The Internet in Pakistan is controlled by the bureaucracy within the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the people of Pakistan remain at the behest of their discretion on what is permissible and what is not permissible in Pakistan. PTA is quite definitely influenced by the mighty and powerful rulers of our country and enforce censorship on specific websites that they may deem themselves to be offensive.

Historically internet censorship took a plunge for the worst in 2006 when the Supreme Court in Pakistan decided to block 12 specific websites for carrying the offensive Prohpet Muhammad (PBUH) Cartoons which were published by a danish newspaper. PTA should have blocked the particular website but instead blocked the entire blogspot.com domain which resulted in millions of blogs which were hosted on blogspot.com blocked to internet users in Pakistan. In an uproar the bloggers in Pakistan voiced their anger across the world wide web and it also lead to the formation of Don’t Block the Blog which became the front runner in providing verbal resistance to this blanket censorship. The tussle with PTA last over year, only removed when Google obliged to switch their IP addresses while doing a technical upgrade on their servers, PTA simply did not react and blogspot was yet again open to the general public.

Ever since 2006 we have actively monitored the workings of PTA and it has been seen that it remains at the beck and call of dictators, rulers, the mighty, the powerful, and the rich and famous in Pakistan obliging them with blanket censorship when something irritating or defamatory crops up on the Internet against them. There are effectively no ground rules or principles which are followed by the PTA and it is generally seen that a simple notifications is issued to all ISP’s in Pakistan ordering them to initiate a block on a particular URL, the users are to discover only by accident, if they happen to stumble upon the website.

The hypocrisy of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority is blatantly evident by the fact that in an Islamic state of Pakistan millions of pornographic websites remain fully accessible to the users in Pakistan, yet the PTA chooses to leverage its authority on suppressing freedom of expression against the corrupt rulers, or merely censoring reports of human rights issues, all based on the whim of the rulers of the country.

It is my position that the internet should be free and open to the People of Pakistan allowing the people to harness this boundless platform for creating new spaces for exchanging ideas and information, the Internet should be considered as a force for freedom and looked upon as a tool for progressing the growth of a struggling nation. Join Reporters without Borders in joining hands for the World Day Against Censorship

February 12, 2010

PTA blocks website : Make Pakistan Better

In an email sent just now by the webmaster of Make Pakistan Better, I was shocked to read that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Director General (Enforcement) Yawer Yasin has instructed all its Zonal Directors on 18th January 2010 to block the website http://makepakistanbetter.com on an IP level.

Since its blocked from Pakistan one can still view the website from Google cache and it shows some interesting anti-government articles which may have been the thorn that lead to the blockage. I believe this is a serious invasion of freedom of speech and sadly the PTA has not defined or responded to the reason why this website has been deemed objectionable for users in Pakistan

Upon contacting the website owner he explained

“This website’s main goal is to bring news to common public which our biased media has deliberately tried to blackout. We have many authors on our website who openly criticize the Pakistan Army, the PPP government & others individuals their write-ups, so I think our site is blocked because of these same hard hitting articles. You simply cannot block a website on the basis of having a strong and opposing opinion, because in a country where anti-Islamic or Anti-Pakistan site’s are not blocked and even in an Islamic state where practically millions of pornographic sites are wide open so the whim of blocking a particular site based upon strong criticism against a certain group of individuals in power should not justifiable or even accepted by society.

As a civil society activist for unrestricted free speech in Pakistan, I vehemently condemn this incident and immediately urge the government of Pakistan to remove this censorship with immediate effect.

Press Statement issued by Dont Block the Blog can be downloaded here Press Release by DBTB on MakePakistanBetter Censorship

February 8, 2010

PTA blocks Asif Ali Zardari’s ‘Shut-up’ Youtube Video

Sunday evening Youtube.com started facing intermittent reports of inaccessibility. It initially started off with a simple white page saying “This Site is Accessible” subsequent reports were submitted on Herdict Web shows the inaccessibility lasted for about an hour but then everything recovered back to normal.

It was then later reported that the crackdown by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority was on one particular video which is of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari saying a very forceful Shut Up to an audience member while he is busy delivering his speech at a rally.

Link to the Blocked Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzuHD5x1fEU [a few other variants have also been blocked]

Speculations are that as this government will continue to edgy on a number of issues as they get pushed into a corner, instinctively they will react in short similar burst. It is a known fact that the President and his core group of leaders might be feeling the heat from the Supreme Court of Pakistan as the NRO was apparently chucked away into oblivion hence leaving them technically ineligible to occupy these high-level offices.

December 3, 2009

Shahid Masood’s show on Geo.tv banned by UAE Govt

shahid-masood-meray-mutabiq-logoIt seems that a ban has been imposed on the airing of Geo News’ program ‘Meray Mutabiq’ by Dr. Shahid Masood from Dubai. According to Geo.tv sources, high government officials from Pakistan have exerted pressure on the Dubai government to block the show from being telecast from Dubai

This show along with Geo.tv has previously suffered the same fate of outright censorship in Pakistan during the 2007 martial law by Pervaiz Musharraf it was then that Pervaiz Musharraf actually approached the Dubai government too and had the entire channel taken off-air for a period of over 77 days. In those days strict local government restrictions prevented broadcast signal from Pakistan and all TV channels resorted to rebroadcasting to the satellite feed from Dubai, since the 2007 tussle with Geo and its subsequent negotiations with electronic media outlets, Geo then moved most of its operations back into Pakistan leaving aside two show Meray Mutabiq and Nadia Khan show still to be aired from Dubai alone.

It seems the President of Pakistan now in the form of Mr Asif Ali Zardari has yet again successfully requested the Dubai government to force this current affairs program off-air. There can be little doubt as to the reason why Dr. Shahid Masood may have suffered this fate this time around, as I’m sure he may have been touching on some sensitive topics which more-or-less will most likely have to do with the NRO and Mr. Asif Ali Zardari being the top celebrity featured on that dis-honest list.

PkPolitics has recorded and has published the LAST EPISODE of Shahid Masood’s MERAY MUTABIQ – in this last episode he shares threats to his life with the possible reasons for having him blocked on Geo, he also sheds light on the level of corruption by the NRO – SHOCKING its a definite must watch

Many a times I have criticized many of our current affairs news casters of sensationalization but regardless of which line they may actually support, I think this censorship is yet again a definite target on freedom of expression and I vehemently oppose it

October 3, 2009

Video on Human Rights Abuses by Pakistan Army leads to Censorship

_46479867_kick226For the past few days a specific gut wrenching video has been making its way around the Pakistani web-sphere which shows a Pakistani Army Major conducting an interrogation of two people suspected of harboring Talibans. During the Question and Answer session the Major steps back and orders his crew to ruthlessly beat the person punching, kicking and whipping the suspects, who scream in pain and writhe on the ground. The 10-minute video is at best deliberately being shot (but is seemingly concealed away from the spectators) to record the entire interrogation, that goes to suggest that such treatment is a norm within the Army and should not be treated as a one off random affair. [BBC Link]

Sadly this inhumane treatment dealt out by this officer of the Pakistan Army makes me also want to fight back against these ruthless uniformed personnel. Such actions I consider as blatant human rights violation and the Army must be held accountable for such treatment, and not treat this as a one-off incident

Dawn.com reports that the Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said ‘the army was investigating the alleged abuse’, but declined further comment Friday. Pakistan’s poorly trained and underfunded security forces have long been accused of human rights abuses.

Click through this link to verify if the Pkpolitics.com URL is blocked from Pakistan, if it is please submit a report on Herdictweb which helps aggregate information on why such website

The video follows after the jump
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July 12, 2009

PEMRA Blocks Dawn TV’s show We Are Soldiers

We Are Soldiers - Marines | Dawn News TVLate Friday night I received a couple of SMS’s alerting me that PEMRA had suddenly pulled and banned a much popular military show called ‘We Are Soldiers’ off-air. This news came a day before the episode on Special Services Group and Marines was to be aired on Saturday at 7:05 pm, but according to a PEMRA [Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority] this show was unacceptable for public consumption and hence needed to be taken off-air

A flurry of twitter and SMS messages followed but late Friday night no further development was reported apart from the initial set of messages which mostly read – “WE ARE SOLDIERS” the first documentary on the PAK ARMY on @DAWNNEWS TV has been banned by PEMRA – The following day [Saturday] discussions across the board revealed that the show was initially designed to cover the Marines which is an organization under the jurisdiction of the Pakistan Navy. The episode as customary was sent to the Army headquarters, despite the fact that it is shot under careful supervision of the ISPR to ensure that Wajahat and his news team does not go over board. The DVD reportedly was also forwarded to the Naval Chief who incidentally blew a gasket, accusing Dawn for not coming for approval well before the airing date but instead the Naval team called up PEMRA and had them issue orders to block the entire Dawn News show “We are Soldiers”
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