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Pakistanis Show Their Love For YouTube in Vimeo Video

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, December 5 2013

Screenshot from the Hugs for Youtube! video

Although YouTube (the website) has been banned in Pakistan for more than a year now, that didn't keep YouTube (the mascot) from walking the streets of Karachi last month, asking for hugs from Pakistanis who want the video sharing site back. The self-described citizens resistance forum Pakistan for All filmed the stunt as part of their #KholoBC campaign, which opposes Internet censorship and content regulation by the government.

The video “Hugs for YouTube! #KholoBC” was posted on Vimeo two weeks ago and has garnered some 16 thousand plays.

Hugs for YouTube! #KholoBC from Ziad Zafar on Vimeo.

In an interview published by Global Voices, Ziad Zafar, documentary filmmaker and a founding member of Pakistan for All, said:

One of the primary reasons we wanted to do this was, that we wanted to alert people's attention to the fact that the YouTube ban does not arise out of public or moral pressure. While the initial pretext may have been blasphemous content, the administration views YouTube and other social media instruments as subversive tools, and so are keen to go on suppressing them. From the Arab spring to Occupy Wall street, YouTube and other forms of social media have been central to a new wave of social movements that have swept the globe in recent years. The mindset in the bureaucratic-administration in Pakistan is cognisant of this, and so there is no real appetite to re-open the video sharing website.

It is important to note that other than initial global protests following the release of the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ there has been virtually no public pressure brought on the government from political or religious circles to uphold the ban. Most Pakistanis want YouTube back. It is revealing to look at the index of most visited websites in Pakistan, the top 3 are proxy websites! This means that the majority of people logging on to the net are trying to bypass government controls.

The video was released just a few weeks after it was announced that the petition to unblock YouTube, brought to court by the Internet rights group Bytes For All, will be reviewed by a panel of Lahore High Court justices. This means that the decision will not be issued until next year.

Meanwhile, Pakistan shows no sign of lessening their Internet censorship. On November 19 they blocked the entire Internet Movie Database (IMDB). The blanket ban was lifted only three days later after massive public outcry on social media.

As of November 25, however, Pakistanis could not access the specific IMDB page for the film “The Line of Freedom,” a short thriller about a student's abduction by government security forces. The Digital Rights Foundation says this is the first [documented] case of selective online censorship in Pakistan.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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