ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s media regulator said Monday it blocked Wikipedia services in the country for hurting Muslim sentiment by not removing purportedly blasphemous content from the site.
Blasphemy is a sensitive subject and carries the death penalty in Pakistan, where even allegations of the offense are often enough to provoke mob violence. International and domestic rights groups say that accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says it blocked Wikipedia because a 48-hour deadline to remove the content was ignored, according to a spokesperson. “Such things hurt the sentiments of Muslims,” said Malahat Obaid, from the regulator.
She said Pakistani authorities are in talks with Wikipedia officials and the ban could be lifted if the platform completely removes anti-Islam content.
The Wikimedia Foundation on Saturday confirmed the ban, saying: “We hope that the Pakistan government joins us in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restores access to @Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly, so that the people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world.”
Pakistan briefly banned TikTok twice for allegedly uploading “immoral, obscene and vulgar” content.
But the ban was later lifted after TikTok assured Pakistan it would remove immoral content and also block users who upload “unlawful content.” The app was downloaded millions of times in Pakistan when the ban was imposed in 2020 and 2021.
In 2008, Pakistan banned YouTube over videos depicting Prophet Muhammad. Muslims generally believe any physical depiction of Islam’s prophet is blasphemous.