Archive for the 'Free Speech' Category
So this is how it all happened. Ajoka, a non-commercial theatre group committed to the cause of social change in Pakistan, unveiled its new play Burqavaganza last month in Lahore. The satirical play, written by Shahid Nadeem, addresses the issue of the burqa (veil) and highlights the double-standards and hypocrisy of the feudal/tribal mindset. The aim was to use humour and satire to challenge the cultural status quo and to provoke people to think for themselves.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the show and the play received positive reviews in the press. But the most surprising response to the play came from a rather astute group of individuals belonging to the MMA (more popularly known as Mullah Military Alliance). Inspired by the success of the Burqavaganza, five extremely talented MNAs decided to perform their own impromptu over-the-top ‘drama‘ in the National Assembly. The play imaginatively titled Fanativaganza (by yours truly), was a staged rebuttal to the Ajoka group’s play. Substituting the use of satire, the inspired MNAs opted for provocative language and violent hand gestures to ridicule the writer of Burqvaganza and the Director of the Ajoka theatre group. Apparently, to these five highly sensitive and pious individuals, the Burqavaganza play was clearly un-Islamic, enough to be classified as blasphemous. Although, it has to be clarified that these days, any critique, criticism, aspersion, censure, swipe or nitpicking of the norms and practices of these religious extremists will likely lead to a blasphemy charge, even if it is a comment regarding the general unruliness of their beards.
One minor clarification here, they cannot be called religious fundamentalists. This is because they fail to grasp the fundamentals of the religion they claim to be following. ‘Nutters’ is more appropriate and generally my preference.
The MNA performed drama did not get a positive response from the public or the press, but it did manage to get a standing ovation from the Minister of Culture, who subsequently announced a government ban on the Burqavaganza play to show his appreciation for the drama queens of the national assembly. He was so moved by the MMA performance that he additionally promised further government actions against the key members of the Ajoka Theatre group. I have to admit, as a Pakistani citizen, hearing this news brought a lump to my throat. It wasn’t that I was emotional, it just happened to be part of the process of me regurgitating my last meal, as I got sick to my stomach.
It is clear now that the government’s attempt at promoting ‘enlightened moderation’ in reference to religion has not been very successful. Actually, that is an understatement; it has been an unquestionable, resounding failure. I do admit though that they have managed to create an era of (religious) ‘moderated enlightenment’. When your faith is judged by the size of your beard or measured by the length of your veil, you are in serious, serious trouble!11 comments
“I before E except after C” is a mnemonic device that helps me remember the rule for spelling certain words in the English language, such as deceive and siege when I’m describing the actions of the Bush Administration. There’s also a less known memory aid which I qualify as “I before SY when preceded by a ‘Hypo’ “. This writing standard helps formulate the word hypocrisy, which describes the current global, rather repugnant, political status quo.
Allow me to pontificate on the absurdity of their logic. A South Vietnamese student goes on a murderous rampage on a college campus and he is to be seen as ‘deranged psychopath’ (and rightly so). A neocon led army goes on a murderous rampage in sovereign nation and we are supposed to classify that as ‘spreading peace and democracy’. That’s rather an absurd logic, don’t you think? Skewed so far off course, you can’t even see its connection to reality.
18 british sailors accused of spying, are detained for two weeks by Iranian authorities. They suffer severe torture for two strenuous weeks. Initially blindfolded and then isolated they are then further tormented by being well fed, given cigarette breaks, allowed to lounge around and play table tennis and board games, given new suits to wear and then finally released after receiving a gift bag each. We (the public) are then expected to sympathize with the tremendous suffering of these 18 admitted spies (according to the Sky News) who vacationed in Iran for a fortnight and then released to make money by selling their stories.
Along with the detention of the alleged Al Qaeda, Taliban and the frightfully dangerous Al Jazeera News channel reporter currently being held in indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, there are unknown number of world citizenry who have been kidnapped and ‘renditioned’ by CIA or their approved proxy agents under the umbrella of ‘War on Terror’. There are no signs of their release or an end to their REAL torture (as apposed to what the british sailors suffered). Any one in the world can be classified an ‘enemy combatant’ and suffer indefinite detention and torture, but we are all expected to feel safe because the sanctimonious saviors of this world are busy fighting EVIL and we should not disturb them. Our only responsibility here is to acquiesce when they come to unlawfully abduct us. Apparently, the meek shall not be inheriting the earth. We were misinformed.
We are all expected to support the right of others to voice their opinions on politics, race, religion, culture, etc. in order to ensure our own right to free speech. We should also be tolerant of criticism and ridicule of our own faith, as we cannot expect everyone to conform to our own religious norms and tenets. (And yes, I am referring specifically to the case of the religious caricatures in the mainstream media which caused a furor in many countries. Geez! People really need to chill out if South Park lampoons Tom Cruise and Scientology.) This point is key if you truly believe in free speech and freedom of expression. BUT, what you cannot be allowed to do (currently in Germany and Austria and soon to be applied to the rest of the EU and even the US) is to deny, question or revise (the facts about) the Holocaust. This is the one and only free speech issue most of the western media and even some activists groups I imagine, are really truly afraid of touching. Can u imagine what would have happened had Salman Rushdie written a holocaust revisionist book instead of the Satanic Verses. The darling of the British media would be rotting in some European jail without any complaints from the English press. Personally, I do not deny the holocaust and I think what happened was horrific to say the least, and Hitler was completely off his trolley, BUT I don’t want any country that criminalizes the discussion, revision or denial of the holocaust to claim to be a complete supporter of free speech – ever! Because that is just a lorry load of horse excrement!
Religious extremist groups generally lack the ability to recognize their own hypocrisy when it comes to human rights. They desperately complain and start rioting if you don’t allow them to exercise their (self-anointed) privilege to infringe on the rights of others. They couldn’t spot the ‘irony’ if it came and bit them on their gluteus maximus. After much contemplation, I’ve come to the conclusion; it is pointless to argue with them because they lack the requisite amount of brain cells and having seven or eight will just not do. I’m sorry!
And of course, there’s the pretentious bunch of so called ‘professional’ media and broadcast journalists who routinely question the abilities of bloggers to tell the truth, while the same lot (CNN, New York Times, The Associated Press, UPI and many other agencies) ran propagandist disinformation news stories courtesy the Office of Strategic Influence (which should have been appropriately called Department of Shoveling Sh*t). All these news stories were uncorroborated but the media published them anyway. So the next time you (as a blogger) gets questioned by the likes of Wolf Blitzer from CNN, you have the right to attack his journalistic integrity by kneeing him in the groin.
And here’s something even more asinine:
- US = 10,000 nuclear warheads
- Israel = 100 plus nuclear warheads (conservative est.)
- Iran = 0 nuclear warheads (currently)
And guess who is being classified as the biggest threat to the world? I’m sure you know the answer to that one. They further claim that Ahmedinajad is actually what makes Iran more dangerous, which supposedly justifies their covert attempts (by CIA and Mossad) to bring regime change in Iran. Excuse me?! Has anyone considered the other two geniuses (Bush and Olmert) in question in this current political stand-off ? Surely, by all rational, logical and factual reasoning, a regime change is far more desperately needed in the US and Israel.
The truth is, like you, I am severely frustrated by this growing hypocrisy. It started as like a small pimple but now this uncontrollable blemish has blossomed into a festering boil on the backside of humanity. And who is to blame? The current crop of fascist leaders. And by the way, they don’t give a damn about any of this. If you questioned them now, Bush would show you the finger and Cheney would signal you as a “Loser”. Don’t believe me?
Since my initial post regarding the inception of the Don’t Blog The Blog (DBTB) campaign, a lot has happened. The campaign received a positive response from the bloggers, the national and international media and of course human rights organizations such as RSF and ONI. I continue to nudge, push, scratch backs and fiddle with knobs to get the issue highlighted wherever possible. So far, everyone except the concerned government authorities have paid attention to our cause. But I guess, that is the case with most free speech campaigns so I am not discouraged.
Recently, I was interviewed by Sami Ben Gharbia, Global Voices Online‘s new Advocacy Director. The article details the (Pakistan) blog censorship issue quite well. Additionally, he’s also included Awab’s wonderful presentation on free speech during last year’s conference in Manila.
Please take the time out to peruse the article, review the presentation and read my interview, as I finally get a chance to answer some of the critics of our campaign.
UPDATE: With Sami’s kind approval I am highlighting the portion of the article that includes my interview, but please make it a point to check out Awab’s presentation and the rest of Sami’s article here.
Sami Ben Gharbia: Can you tell us more about the filtering situation in Pakistan? Did the online censorship get started in 2006 with the ban of the Blogspot.com blogging platform, or it is also targeting other online content, like opposition groups, news websites or the publications of human rights organizations?
Omer Alvie: Censorship of web sites did exist before the blogspot ban. Although the blockade was of only of a few primarily Indian media sites that focused on political view points that were critical of Pakistan or the Pakistani government. Since the blogspot ban a few selected other Pakistani web sites have been a target of government blockade. These sites are primarily political, addressing the Balochistan (province) crisis and the political movement which is particularly outspoken against the current government of President Pervez Musharaf.
SBG: Why doesn’t the Pakistani government ban just the sites that were displaying the cartoons? Why they are maintaining a DNS level block on the blogspot.com domain and not an URL block targeting the sites deemed blasphemous?
OA: Keeping in mind that the internet (user) community is a small percentage of the total population of Pakistan, I think the level of priority or importance given to this issue by the concerned authorities is obviously very little.
As far as the blocking of the complete blogspot.com domain is concerned, and I don’t know if it is incompetence, indifference or lack of an appropriate technique to block a specific blogspot site without blocking the whole domain. But the rationale for blocking millions of other blogs for the sake of one blog that is classified blasphemous is absolutely and positively ridiculous. But unfortunately they continue to do it. As far as banning the sites that were displaying the cartoons of the Prophet, the PTA is enforcing a ban on some of them but obviously not all. They probably are not even aware of the existence to some of them.
Actually, I’m sure the PTA realizes the enormous and impossible task of actually blocking everything that is classified blasphemous. It cannot be done as new sites come up every day that can be considered offensive, or the existing ones can be mirrored to alternative web addresses so the whole exercise of blocking sites is rather futile in my opinion.
The only way the authorities (in any country) can successfully ban a specific topic or content on related sites, is by banning the whole of the internet in that country. Otherwise, it can NEVER be done. What usually ends up happening, as in the case of the cartoon issue, the most useless, hate-filled, and irrelevant site ends up being popular (and as result gets a much larger audience) due to the ban enforced on it.
SBG: During the last year the ban of blogspot.com has been lifted several time and then resumed after a few days. How can you explain that? Is there any official reason behind this hemming and hawing?
OA: It is true that sporadic and short lifting of the blogspot blanket has occurred during the last year. No official reason has been given for the lifting of the ban for these very short durations. It should also be noted that the no clear official declaration has been made by the appropriate government authorities regarding the blogspot blanket ban either.
It is likely that the unblocking of the sites occur due to a glitch or other technical reasons in reference to the concerned ISPs. It is usually not the case that all ISPs unblock the blogspot sites all at the same time and for the same reason, however the short duration of the lifting of the blockade maybe.
SBG: The censorship of blogspot.com has a religious and cultural justification. What does the “Don’t Block The Blog” campaign think about censoring the 12 blogs publishing the controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed? Do you support their right to publish such cartoons? Does the DBB stand for defending the right to be offended, to borrow the expression of Salman Rushdie?
OA: It is my view that censorship on the internet is impractical and illogical. Blocking of sites does not ensure that the content becomes unavailable. Proxy by-pass servers and mirror sites can be set up to gain access to anything the government is trying to block.
We at DBTB support the right of free speech for everyone. This umbrella of free speech rights also covers those sites that we might consider offensive. In order to ensure free speech for most average citizens who voice their opinions for no other reason then just to tell the truth, one has to accept the right of free speech of even those who have an extremist or hateful political agenda. It is the right of every citizen (of the world) to voice their opinion and we support their right for free speech.
SBG: On the Washington Post article “Pakistan’s Blog Blockade” a few comments are accusing the “Don’t Block the Blog” group of campaigning in favor of selective freedom of speech. They are arguing that you are supporting censorship of the blogs and websites deemed offending; they are even quoting some extract from the press release–dated 06 March 2006–in which you wrote: “We urge the print and electronic media to exert pressure upon the Government of Pakistan to first lift the ban on non-controversial blogspot.com websites (…) while we expect any censorship to be within the limits of decency and decorum of the Pakistani culture.” Do you think these accusations are unfounded? How can you refute them?
OA: That initial press release was revised to clarify our point. That same press release and our website also included the statement that we support the right of free speech for ALL. Yet this quote was used to target our campaign.
Keeping that in mind, let me further clarify the quote initially written in the press release. Knowing fully well that we were addressing an extremely sensitive issue within our country and the primary reason for the blogspot ban was the printing of the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), we had to be extremely practical in our approach in launching our campaign. Most readers in the west, and perhaps even those who used the quote to attack us, are not aware of the blasphemy laws enforced in our country. Keeping aside our personal opinion of such laws, it was imperative for us to be smart and present the issue as diplomatically as possible, without further inciting the situation. Had we first focused on the unblocking of the 12 banned sites, out of which only 1 or 2 were actually on blogspot, we would have certainly ensured ourselves a place in the list of banned sites.
For those who do not delve into advocacy issues, or are not actively involved in a free speech campaign, are usually not fully aware of the how the “game” is played. The primarily goal is to fight for free speech for everyone but in order to do that, one has to start slowly, diplomatically (walking on egg shells, as it were) to ensure that the campaign survives to fight a long battle. One has to keep in mind the political, religious and social tenets and laws practiced within the country in question. Once, the campaign gains momentum and garners the requisite attention, the campaign can push further the cause of free speech as the primary and only option for the way forward.
I would also like to point out that those who criticize our campaign, citing the example of the western countries as truly supporting free speech in comparison to Muslim or Third World countries, ought to seriously look at the reality as it exists. Specifically in Europe, and now even U.S. and Canada, the right to free speech does NOT exist when it comes to the topic of Holocaust Denial or Holocaust revision. Those who practice this right either end up in jail or else face some other punishment as in the case of Ernst Zundel, David Irving, James Keegstra and others.
I wonder what the reaction in the west would be had Salman Rushdie published a holocaust revisionist book rather than The Satanic Verses. Would the press and majority of the western public be as supportive? I hardly think so!
SBG: It has been a year since the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) instituted a blanket ban on Blogspot.com. What kind of approaches does the “Don’t Block The Blog” campaign–which was launched few days after the ban–adopt to fight against online censorship in the country? Are they technical, civil or legal approaches?
OA: As DBTB comprises only two individuals, we have been limited by the resources at our disposal and particularly restrained by time constraints, as both members of DBTB have work obligations, and do the campaign work in what ever free time they have available. We have primarily had a two-pronged approach to our campaign focus. One is to continually source by-pass proxy solutions that can help the bloggers in Pakistan access their blogs with ease, and the second is to continually maintain the awareness level of the blanket ban issue with not just the bloggers, but with media and with the more prominent Free speech and human rights organizations. In keeping with these aims, we have launched the first Pakistani Blog Aggregator to syndicate Pakistani origin blogs, including the ones that are currently being blocked. We are also planning writing competitions to promote free speech and have other ideas currently under development to ensure that freedom of expression (free speech) becomes the primary issue of concern for not just Pakistani, but also international audiences of the internet.
SBG: What is your relationship with Yasir Memon and Naveed Memon, the developers of the two proxy servers Pkblogs and Inblogs? Are they members of “Don’t Block the Blog” campaign?
OA: The Memon brothers volunteered to provide this solution for the Pakistani and Indian bloggers through the venue of DBTB and their support of free speech. They are not members of DBTB, but we communicate as needed to discuss possible ideas for prospective technical solutions to the blanket ban.
SBG: We’ve heard about the message of Dr. Awab Alvi- the co-founder of the “Don’t Block The Blog” (DBTB) campaign- to the Indian Bloggers Collective Group, and how the DBB was helping their community circumvent the government ban on blogspot.com domain. Can you tell us more about that and how it’s contributing to bridging the divides between activists and bloggers on both sides? Has any regional strategy or willingness to build an anti-censorship alliance been discussed between Pakistani and Indian bloggers?
OA: DBTB has always planned that all information or tools made available for Pakistani bloggers to by-pass a ban should be freely made available for also bloggers from other countries. India, as our neighboring country, naturally came to mind as we were aware of Indian bloggers also facing an blog access problem. Dr. Awab offered a hand of friendship and we are happy to say that the effort and the solution made available was appreciated by the India bloggers. We hope this cooperation grows and in future Indian and Pakistani bloggers work together to support the right to free speech and in course learn to respect, understand and appreciate each other better.
SBG: In the most recent update at the “Don’t Block The Blog” website, we are told that Google Inc.’s key representative has been closely following the activities of DBTB and is willing to help resolve the blanket ban. Do you really believe in the “don’t be evil” rhetoric of Google, which, after all, agreed to censor itself for China? According to a Washington Post article, Google was following the censorship issue in Pakistan since March 2006, and “has been contacting a range of individuals in Pakistan, including in the government, to determine what’s causing the unavailability of Blogspot, and to get access restored.”
OA: As mentioned earlier, DBTB is an awareness campaign promoting the rights of free speech. We are decidedly apolitical and therefore have to be as diplomatic as possible with whichever group or individual is offering to help us. We are fully aware of the Google’s involvement in free speech issues, especially in relation to other countries like China.
We provide the benefit of the doubt to those willing to offer help, even though we might personally be a little suspicious of their history. As in this case, Google contacted us and offered to help. Rather than be critical and not accept or believe their offer (as the rights of bloggers are at stake and this issue is far bigger than our own opinions), we decided to give Google the opportunity to prove their claim that they are working towards a solution. Obviously, in months to come, we shall all be able to judge Google on their promise of support by reviewing the concrete results (or lack of results) achieved by Google. What is an assurance is that we at DBTB will continue to follow up with them to assess the progress of their efforts.4 comments
Don’t Block the Blog (DBTB) is happy to announce to the Pakistani bloggers that some serious progress has been made during the last few of days regarding the internet censorship (blogspot ban ) issue in Pakistan.
Google Inc.’s key representative (Policy Analyst) has been in direct contact with DBTB members in reference to the blogspot ban. We were informed that Google has been closely following the activities of DBTB and our efforts to address the issue of the blanket ban, and it strongly supports the cause of the Pakistani bloggers.
During the exchange of emails, Omer Alvie provided a detailed picture on the history of the ban, along with highlighting the collective efforts of DBTB and Pakistani bloggers to fight this unfair blanket ban. Additionally, the serious problems regarding the new version of Blogger.com were also highlighted, along with requesting a more direct and concrete support from Google in helping resolve the current blogspot censorship issue and providing continued support for the cause of free speech in Pakistan.
In reference to our request and direct communication with Google, DBTB was contacted by the appointed representative of Google in Pakistan. Dr. Awab Alvi had a detailed meeting with the representative reiterating the need to address the Pakistani bloggers’ concerns regarding the blanket ban with the appropriate government authorities. DBTB was informed that a direct meeting with the Ministry of Information and Technology has been set up for Monday the 19th of February, in which the Google (Pak) representative will force this issue to light and hopefully work towards resolving the unfair blanket ban issue once and for all.
In addition, Dr. Awab also reminded the Google Representative, that in the meantime, it would best to get direct involvement from Google in configuring the pkblogs and inblogs proxy servers to be better at handling the recent upgrade to the new blogger version.
Although the DBTB team remains optimistic with the recent developments and the direct involvement of Google Inc. to help resolve the blanket ban issue, we are also aware of the political machinations within our government which could mean that the process for a permanent resolution to the ban problem will be a slow one.
We at DBTB stand determined to continue our efforts in this regard, and hope to update you as soon as we are informed of any concrete solutions or resolutions to the blog censorship issue.
Update 21st February: Unfortunately, the proposed meeting of the Google Rep and the government representative did not take place as scheduled. Still, I remain cautiously optimistic about Google’s offer to help even if it is for no other reason than just to be positive .
Google has committed itself by claiming that they are willing and able to help our cause. Time will be the best judge of their performance. Let’s see if they are, or are not able to provide concrete solutions to solve the blogspot ban issue. What I can assure you of is that we at DBTB will continue to follow up with Google to check up on their progress and remind them of their commitment us.
In the meantime, we continue our work to source our own solutions to the problem and will continue highlighting the issue of the blanket ban, along with promoting the issue of free speech on the internet in general.3 comments
After the release of the last Don’t Block The Blog (DBTB) Press Alert, I’ve been in discussion with several Pakistan based bloggers regarding the problems they are facing accessing specific blogging platforms and blogs in general. While Teeth Maestro expertly continues to source technical solutions to the problem, I’ve been updating with various international (free speech) organizations regarding the blogging problem in Pakistan. The most prominent of these Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), also known as Reporters Without Borders, has been fighting for the protection of journalists and free speech in general for the past 22 years. RSF strongly supports and continues to fight for the rights of all international bloggers.
I have been fortunate enough to be in communication with RSF from the start of DBTB. In my recent discussion with Mr. Julien Pain (Head of the Internet Freedom Desk at RSF), we were both in agreement that the blanket ban was not just an a strong interference for Pakistani bloggers but may actually turn into a deterrence where some bloggers might just get fed up with the problems with the accessing their blogs and give up blogging altogether. We cannot allow this to happen. With that concern in mind I have a small reminder for blogspot domain bloggers to please source alternate solutions for hosting your blog. Launch a new blog on typepad, wordpress or livejournal, until such time when a concrete solution is provided to you for accessing your blogspot blog so you can permanently transfer all your old posts to your new blog. The point is to continue blogging and invite others to blog. I realize that there are no guarantees with either of these other blog solutions but it is most likely to be better than blogspot.
To additionally encourage Pakistani bloggers to exercise the right to free speech, DBTB would like to announce a small writing competition which for Pakistan based bloggers. RSF which provides a paid solution for prominent political and social bloggers to host their blogs at the RSF blogging platform, has decided to award a free blog, on my behest, to the winner of this competition. The topic for the writing competition will obviously will have to do with free speech. The formal announcement and rules of the competition will soon be highlighted on DBTB blog, Bloggers.Pakistan, and the respective blogs of the DBTB team members.
What is the advantage of (winning and) owning a blog at rsf.org?
- Your blog will be associated with an NGO that defends press freedom and the rights of bloggers and journalists.
- Your address will be myblog.rsfblog.org
- You can contact others in the rsfblog community, people who know about and are interested in what’s happening on the other side of the world and care about human rights
- What you post may be picked up on the front page of “Looking at the world through Blogs,” a website that reviews what bloggers everywhere are doing.
- Your details will remain totally confidential. Unlike hosts such as Yahoo! or Google, who in the past have worked with authorities in repressive countries by providing private information.
- This blog is the least likely to cause you problems as it is a paid service platform and should provide you the requisite support technically and in support of your free speech.
- It is just one of the ‘coolest’ blog addresses to have on the internet!
That’s all for now but I hope to bring you more DBTB updates and hopefully some concrete solutions to the Pakistan blogging ban issue.8 comments
– ALERT ! –
PAKISTANI BLOGGERS SHOULD NOT
UPGRADE TO BLOGGER BETA
It has been over eleven months since the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has enforced a blanket ban on the entire blogspot.com domain and so far there seems no recourse to the ban despite the repeated attempts of a strong lobby of concerned individuals pressuring the concerned authorities to review this unfair ban. The latest series of improvements undertaken by Google to improve the blogspot interface seem to be causing problems for Pakistani Bloggers. Previously despite the blockade the bloggers were able to easily access the back-end of Blogspot.com which by chance happened to exist on a different IP address, with the recent improvements in Blogspot, it now is difficult to even access the back-end of the popular interface, in effect completely blocking the Google service.
The Don’t Block the Blog (DBTB) team, (with support of other Pakistani and international bloggers) would like to issue an ALERT to all Pakistani bloggers to resist the urge to voluntarily upgrade the account and start initiating steps to move to alternate hosting solutions once the upgrade becomes compulsory as it would definitely block access to their blog.
As an update, the team members of Dont Block the Blog would like to issue an advisory to all affected and prospective bloggers in Pakistan to establish new blogs preferably on other free blog hosting services like http://wordpress.com, http://www.livejournal.com or http://movabletype.com which will ensure the domain outside the envelop of the blanket ban URLs blocked by the authorities in Pakistan.
The Don’t Block the Blog (DBTB) team, continues to highlight the issues which have plagued the Pakistani blogspohere since March of 2006 in the national and the international press. Since the blockade, a couple of savvy Pakistani programmers have created sites that help by-pass the unfair blanket ban for internet users in Pakistan. The DBTB team specifically, launched the Bloggers.Pakistan web site (www.bloggers.pk), the first Pakistani Blog Aggregator, to help encourage blogging and to ensure that those unfairly banned Pakistani blogs that were not officially censored by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, have a chance to be read by the global internet audience.
DON’T BLOCK THE BLOG strongly opposes any form of internet censorship and request the national and international bloggers, media and free speech organizations to help support our cause and to continue to highlight this issue of the unfair blanket ban of blogs for the internet users in Pakistan.
The PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) had initially blocked access to the blogspot domain on the 3rd of March 2006, due to a Supreme Court decision dated 2nd March 2006 instructing the PTA to ban 12 offending websites which highlighted the blasphemous cartoons on the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In adherence to the Supreme Court ruling, all 12 sites were blocked including one that was hosted on the blogspot domain. But rather than block the offending blogspot website, the PTA blocked the entire domain (www.blogspot.com) which happens to be one of the most popular blog hosting domains hosting upwards of 8 million blogs globally, according to some estimates.
The DON’T BLOCK THE BLOG (DBTB) campaign (http://www.help-pakistan.com/main/ ) was launched by Dr. Awab Alvi and Omer Alvie on 3rd March, 2006 in order to highlight the unfair blanket ban of the blogspot domain and additionally to show support for free internet speech in general. Approximately at the same time the Society Against Internet Censorship in Pakistan (formerly known as The Action Group Against Blogspot Ban in Pakistan – AGABBIP) (http://groups.google.com/group/AGABBIP ), a mailing list with dozens of contributing members also was formed to protest this form of censorship in Pakistan.
For Further Information:
Dr. Awab Alvi
URL: http://www.teeth.com.pk/blog 10 comments
At a recent dinner at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications celebrating First Amendment, Newt Gingrich (former Speaker of the House and a possible presidential candidate for 2008) stood up and honored free speech with these words: [My comments are in italics]
NEWT GINGRICH [sounds like a name for a plague riddled long tailed amphibian]:
…The third thing I want to talk about very briefly is the genuine danger of terrorism in particular terrorists using weapons of mass destruction and weapons of mass murder, nuclear and biological weapons. [Although we do not have any specific historical reference of terrorists using WMDS, nuclear or biological, I think it might serve us well to be fearful of the US Administration's planned use of mini-nukes on a future attack on Iran, the same way they have utilized the DU bombs in Iraq.]
And I want to suggest to you that right now we should be impaneling people to look seriously at a level of supervision that we would never dream of if it weren’t for the scale of threat. [And I want to suggest to you that right now we should be impaling the heartless bastards responsible for torturing, unlawfully detaining and murdering innocent civilians under the guise of War on Terror.]
Let me give you two examples. When the British this summer arrested people who were planning to blow up ten airliners in one day, they arrested a couple who were going to use their six month old baby in order to hide the bomb as baby milk. [The 'baby bottle as a bomb' story is as credible as the hijackers without any passports and airline tickets planning to get on ten different airliners. I think the writers at the DOD, MOD and 'the lack of severe' intelligence agencies really need to work on better scripts than that to frighten the general populace.]
Now, if I come to you tonight and say that there are people on the planet who hate you, and they are 15-25 year old males who are willing to die as long as they get to kill you, I’ve simply described the warrior culture which has been true historically for 6 or 7 thousand years. [If you came to me with that story, I'd first kick your teeth in for being an ethnocentric prick and then ask you to source a more credible document of history than 'The Neocon's Guide to Distorting History for Nefarious Purposes'].
But, if I come to you and say that there is a couple that hates you so much that they will kill their six month old baby in order to kill you, I am describing a level of ferocity, and a level of savagery beyond anything we have tried to deal with. [Yes, because we are only accustomed to the savagery of the DU bombs blowing to smithereens innocent civilians including men, women and children on the pretense of selling Democracy and Freedom.]
And, what is truly frightening about the British experience is they are arresting British citizens, born in Britian, speaking English, who went to British schools, live in British housing, and have good jobs. [You conveniently forgot to mention the main point which makes it truly frightening Newt, and that is that most of these people are innocent!]
This is a serious long term war, and it will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country [like the White House, DOD, Pentagon, PNAC, AIPAC, etc.] that will lead us to learn how to close down every website that is dangerous [specifically www. newt.org], and it will lead us to a very severe approach to people who advocate the killing of Americans [meaning Bush and yourself advocating sending more troops to be sent to Iraq to die for your cause] and advocate the use of nuclear of biological weapons [like the US has for many years by building the largest biological weapons stockpile in the World].
And, my prediction to you is that either before we lose a city, or if we are truly stupid [speak for yourself Newt], after we lose a city, we will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find to break up their capacity to use the internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech, [but the US Administration and many other governments are already doing that you insufferable git] and to go after people who want to kill us to stop them from recruiting people before they get to reach out and convince young people to destroy their lives while destroying us. [Perhaps Newt you cannot see how unbelievably insane and illogical your reasoning sounds to the sane people of this world. You daft prick, 'real' terrorists don't need to use free speech podiums and websites to post classifieds for terrorist recruitment. Only Fox News version of terrorists do that, like Ossama Bin Laden with explosives (who has a past history of association with suspect intelligence agencies).]
This is a serious problem that will lead to a serious debate about the first amendment, but I think that the national security threat of losing an American city to a nuclear weapon, or losing several million Americans to a biological attack is so real that we need to proactively, now, develop the appropriate rules of engagement. [Of all the fear mongering bullshit I've heard recently this certainly takes the cake. So basically, he thinks shutting down websites and curtailing free speech will keep America safe. And this man might become the next President of the United States. Now that is the real cause of FEAR.]
And, I further think that we should propose a Geneva convention for fighting terrorism which makes very clear that those who would fight outside the rules of law [like the US Government does by unlawfully torturing and detaining citizens from around the world], those who would use weapons of mass destruction [like the US government has done with Japan and plans to do with Iran], and those who would target civilians [like the US Government has for many years in many different countries, overtly or covertly] are in fact subject to a totally different set of rules that allow us to protect civilization by defeating barbarism before it gains so much strength that it is truly horrendous. [Yes, so let's get rid of the Globalists, the Neocons, and the military industrial complex for starters.]
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UPDATE (RESULT OF THE CAMPAIGN FROM RSF)
Internet users flocked to the Reporters Without Borders website to take part in a 24-hour protest against online censorship that has just ended, while symbolic demonstrations were held yesterday on the streets of Paris and New York. After receiving more than 100,000 visits in 24 hours, the protest webpage – http://www.rsf.org/24h – will remain open for a few more days so that Internet users can continue posting messages there.
“We wanted to demonstrate that bloggers and Internet users the world over feel concerned about the problem of online censorship,” the press freedom organisation said. “The scale of the participation shows that people are not indifferent about the fate of Chinese, Egyptian or Cuban dissidents.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We have also once again seen that the way Yahoo! compromises its principles in China provokes a reaction of deeply-felt disapproval. It is high time this corporation took concrete steps to respect press freedom.”
Massive online participation
- By 11 a.m. today, more than 17,000 people had voted on the Internet enemies map. Breakdown of the votes: Belarus (2,500), Burma (4,500), China (4,100), Cuba (1,000), Egypt (650), Iran (1,500), North Korea (200), Saudi Arabia (650), Syria (200), Tunisia (1300), Turkmenistan (250), Uzbekistan (150), Vietnam (250).
- 3,300 Internet users posted a message of support
- 340 messages audio messages were recorded online pour Jerry Yang, Yahoo!’s founder. These recordings will be handed in next week to Yahoo! France executives.
- 55 blogs were created on the Reporters Without Borders blog platform: www.rsfblog.org.
Reporters Without Borders urges Internet users to continue recording messages for Yahoo!’s founder on the http://www.rsf.org/24h webpage, which will remain open for a few more days. The most original messages will be posted prominently on our website.
Events on the streets of Paris and New York
- In New York, mobile billboards drove around the streets of the city displaying large posters of a map of the world highlighting the Internet black holes. “Ad bikes” also crisscrossed Manhattan and parked in various spots, including outside Yahoo!’s New York headquarters.
In Paris, Reporters Without Borders projected a gigantic world map of online censorship onto the city’s monuments as night fell yesterday. The press and passers-by saw the map displayed on the facade of Saint-Lazare station, the Bastille Opera and the building that houses the French headquarters of Yahoo!. Reporters Without Borders activists requested a meeting with Yahoo! executives in order to hand in the audio messages that were recorded during the cyber-demo. A meeting has been set for next week.
Hush, little blogger, don’t say a word,
It’s best you become part of the mindless herd.
And if you feel the need for a political rant,
Mama’s going to recommend you keep it scant.
And if you continue to question authority,
DHS will consider your unlawful captivity.
And if this warning won’t keep you mum,
Government’s going to classify you a terrorist scum.
And if you still think your speech is free,
Try selling 9-11 as a conspiracy.
Your NSA file will have an “enemy combatant” stamp,
And soon you’ll be heading off to a detention camp.
So if you know what’s good for you,
Keep your posts in check and your attitude too.
Now shut your mouth and watch Fox News,
Enjoy your IQ drop and let it be your muse.