The Pakistan Telecommunication Act of 1996 prohibits transmission of messages that are “false‚ fabricated‚ indecent or obscene.”
Under that Act, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has created a list of words and phrases deemed obscene and indecent, and now all text messages are to be screened for them. The list includes 586 Urdu words and 1,109 English words which have been posted on the Bytes for All website.
Bytes for All (BFA) has expressed concern over the “ruthless wave of moral policing” in Pakistan.
The PTA claims they use the list to control spam as “the transmission of harmful, fraudulent, misleading, illegal or unsolicited messages in bulk to any person without express permission of the recipient.”
With a fine line to be observed between free speech and pornography, listed among the offensive phrases are “Jesus Christ” and “got Jesus” because free speech shall be muzzled “in the interest and glory of Islam.”
The decree has been met with resistance. Omar Manzur‚ spokesman for telecon firm Mobilink explained‚
“Obviously, there are concerns and we have some reservations. This regulation will be implemented only after mutual agreement between the PTA and us. We should wait until the end of this discussion.”
Others view it as another way to oppress Christians. According to the Open Doors’ 2011 World Watch List, Pakistan is often guilty of suppressing religious freedom. They report:
“In 2010, 29 Christians were killed and four were sentenced for blasphemy. At least 58 Christians were kidnapped and at least 100 were physically harmed. During the devastating floods of August 2010, Christians experienced discrimination from local authorities and Muslims in the distribution of aid. In November 2010, a Christian woman was sentenced to death for blasphemy.”
NewsWeek Pakistan reports that BFA believes the order has made a mockery of the whole country:
“Pakistan blocked Facebook for nearly two weeks in May 2010 in a storm of controversy about a competition to draw the Prophet Mohammed and has restricted access to hundreds of websites because of blasphemy. The country also briefly banned YouTube in February 2008 during a similar outcry against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).”…
“If such thing happened in any other country, there would be an outrage already and if it was directed (mistakenly or intentionally) towards Muslims, the amount of an outrage would be uncontrollable.” See: Prophecy Newswatch
They “call on the government to amend the laws and retract the notices served” and plan to challenge the legality of the list in court.
- Catholic News “The Catholic Church in Pakistan will do all it can to put pressure on the government to eliminate Christ’s name from the list of banned words. We understand the desire to protect the minds of young people by creating a list of obscene words. But why should Christ’s name be included? What makes it obscene? Banning it would be a violation of our right to evangelise and it hurts the feeling of Christians.”
- “If the ban is confirmed, it will constitute a dark moment in the country’s history; a further act of discrimination against Christians and a clear violation of the Pakistani Constitution. We hope the government will make the opportune amendments.”
- Vancouver Sun