Facebook block removed in Pakistan, imposed in Bangladesh

Facebook is said to have agreed to block access to a controversial page in Pakistan, as it earlier agreed to do in India

The Lahore High Court in Pakistan on Monday ordered Facebook to be unblocked in the country, after the government said that the web site had promised to make material considered derogatory inaccessible to users in Pakistan.

Facebook was ordered to be blocked by the Lahore court on May 19 after a lawyers' organization filed a petition objecting to a page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Everybody-Draw-Mohammed-Day/121369914543425?v=wall) on the Web site called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" which invited users to draw cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.

Depictions of the Prophet are prohibited in some Islamic traditions.

Facebook has meanwhile run into trouble in neighboring Bangladesh where the site has been blocked since Sunday, after the government objected to content offensive to the Prophet on Facebook.

Facebook has agreed to block the page in Pakistan, and apologized for it, Naguibullah Malik, Pakistan's secretary of IT and telecom, said in a telephone interview on Monday. Malik said he had already issued the appropriate orders for unblocking Facebook in Pakistan.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment on the recent developments, but a spokeswoman for the Web site had earlier indicated that the company "may consider IP blocking in Pakistan upon further review of local regulations, standards and customs".

Access to the page has already been blocked by Facebook in India, at the request of local authorities, Facebook said last week.

Besides Facebook, YouTube was also blocked in Pakistan on May 20 for "sacrilegious" content. Over 450 links on the Internet were also blocked, Pakistan's telecommunications regulator, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), said on May 20.

The block on YouTube was relaxed last week after the cabinet of Pakistan decided to unblock both Facebook and YouTube, while continuing to block content it considered offensive on these sites. The unblocking of Facebook was delayed until the decision of the Lahore court.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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