YouTube service discontinued in Pakistan, confirms outage tracker

The YouTube service was interrupted in some areas of Pakistan on Tuesday evening before the speech of PTI chairman Imran Khan at a powerful demonstration in Peshawar. Net Blocks reports—an organization that monitors Internet outages.

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NetBlocks noted the disruption occurred despite the Islamabad High Court lifting the ban on Imran’s speeches by Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.

“NetBlocks recommends no use of network disruptions and social media restrictions to limit political discourse, given their disproportionate impact on fundamental rights, including freedom of speech and assembly,” the organisation said.

Prior to NetBlocks’ confirmation, a number of social media users reported a service interruption on the website.

The PTI and party leaders blamed the government for development, adding that the ban could not arrest the party or Imran.

PTI Vice-President Fawad Chaudhry stated that Pakistan was now “officially transformed into a banana republic”.

“So YouTube blocked again suddenly by this fascist imported govt and its handlers. Really sick mindsets” tweeted former human rights minister Shireen Mazari.

“Imran Khan’s speech will be heard one way or another you petty frightened political pygmies. Never thought the state would use cyber warfare against its own people! Shameful.”

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“Pakistan Government has once again blocked YouTube just to stop people from watching Peshawar jalsa speech of the most popular Pakistani political leader Imran Khan,” alleged party focal person Azhar Mashwani.

Digital rights advocate Usama Khilji said “enough is enough”, adding that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority couldn’t “block YouTube for all of Pakistan each time Imran Khan is addressing a rally”.

“This is unconstitutional censorship which has no basis under the law. Stop making a joke of the Constitution and treating the country like a video game,” he tweeted.

In a follow-up tweet, he said: “Welcome to digital martial law in Pakistan, where YouTube gets blocked each time a person that the establishment doesn’t like is speaking and their speech is live-streamed.”

He said this was “unacceptable paternalistic censorship” that undermined constitutional rights.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Secretary General Farhatullah Babar, in reaction to a tweet about the disruption, shared his reservations about these measures, saying: “A man may be imprisoned but not an idea.”

A similar incident occurred on the night of 21 August from Imran’s address to a gathering in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh. NetBlocks also confirmed such disruption.

“Real-time network data show the disruption in effect on some but not all mobile and fixed-line internet providers in Pakistan during the live-streamed speech. Access was restored after the speech concluded. The study is taken from a sample size of 100 measurements from 14 vantage points across Pakistan,” NetBlocks had said in a report.

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