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TMCNet:  Pakistanis aren't too keen on censorship-free internet

[March 25, 2014]

Pakistanis aren't too keen on censorship-free internet

(Express Tribune (Pakistan) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) As the Lahore High Court continues to debate whether the ban on YouTube should be lifted, a survey has revealed that a mere 22% of Pakistanis want an internet that is free of official censorship. This was the lowest percentage scored out of the 24 developing countries, where the use of internet is either prohibited or limited. India did not figure in the survey, as there are no restrictions on internet there.

v Pew Research Center revealed that some nations, such as Venezuela and Egypt, have higher levels of support for internet freedom than might be anticipated, given the degree of online penetration in the country. Venezuela topped the list with 69% wanting freedom of the internet.

Most of the other countries in the poll said that they wanted an internet free from censorship. Pakistani government banned YouTube after the showing off what was termed as a blasphemous film however, even though the film was removed the ban was not lifted.

In response to the ongoing ban on YouTube for the past 17 months, singer Ali Gul Pir released a song Kholo BC, to mock the government for its inability to lift the ban on such a beneficial online platform. With the main focus on the YouTube ban, Ali and his fellow artiste Adil Omer touched upon various issues related to Pakistani society, its youth and the dichotomy present in the behavior of its ruling elite.

According to the US-based Pakistani website More Magazine, this song is perhaps the most controversial song released by Ali till date and is almost matched to the norm breaking music that was once produced by the Beygairat Brigade, whose songs got banned in cyber space because of their mockery of the Pakistan army.

A censorship-free internet is a priority for most people in emerging countries, especially the younger population, according to the Pew report.

Pew Research Center interviewed nearly 22,000 people in 24 emerging and developing countries. In 22 of those 24 countries, majority of respondents think it is important that people have access to the internet without government censorship. The strength of censorship opposition varied depending on the country, as well as other factors. Support of Internet freedom is prevalent in Latin American countries as well as Lebanon and Egypt, Pew revealed.

Support for internet freedom tends to be strong in nations with high rates of internet penetration, such as Chile and Argentina, where roughly two-thirds of the population is online. It is less common in nations with lower penetration rates, like Indonesia and Uganda. However, two countries bucked that trend internet-freedom support in Russia (63%) and Pakistan (22%) came in low compared to the level of internet penetration in these countries.

Age is also a major factor in 14 of the 24 countries surveyed, people aged from 18-29 are more likely than those of 50 or older to think a free internet is important. "These age differences suggest that support for internet freedom will become more widespread with the passage of time," said Pew in its report.

And in several nations, those with higher incomes are particularly likely to consider internet-freedom a priority. For instance, 71% of high-income Kenyans say internet freedom is important, compared with 44% of people in the low-income category. Nearly eight in 10 Russians in the high-income category (78%) believe it is important, while only 52% of those with low-incomes hold this view.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2014.

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