p2pnet view P2P | Politics:- Mark Zuckerberg (right), the man who runs social advertising site Fa$ebook, could be facing prosecution under a Pakistan penal code that allows for sentence of death for blasphemy.
“The move to prosecute Zuckerberg parallels the government’s attempts to shut down a substantial spectrum of internet activity”, says Privacy International.
Says PI’s Cracking the Black Box >>>
The government of Pakistan is moving swiftly through the High Court to shut down a substantial spectrum of Internet activity and communication. A confidential draft of new censorship provisions shows that the government is planning to increase its already powerful grip over freedom of expression.
Following publication of what the government and religious leaders regard as blasphemous images on the Internet the authorities successfully shut down Facebook access throughout the country. They are now moving to do the same with such sites as YouTube and Google. Last month more than 10,000 sites were banned on pretext of blasphemy.
On May 31st a High Court judge, Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, ordered the government to take action in respect to alleged blasphemy on Facebook. On June 11th in consequence of this order, the Deputy Attorney General authorised and initiated the first stage of investigation and prosecution of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. The Deputy Attorney General on June 11th lodged with police a “First Information Report (FIR)” against “the owner of Facebook”.
An FIR is the document that Police register when a case is lodged against anyone. This document then becomes the prime source of evidence and on the basis the legal case will move.
The FIR – number 614/2010 – was lodged at Civil Lines Police Station Lahore under section “295-C” of the Pakistan Penal Code, which reads “Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet. Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
The actual FIR details the charge “in respect of an offense under Section 295-C Pakistan Penal Code and punishment under this offense is death penalty or rigorous life imprisonment”
The next hearing is scheduled for 12th July 2010.
This order by the High Court to the government essentially means that a prima facie case has already been made against Facebook’s founder, clearing the way for a charge and prosecution to follow. It is highly likely that this prosecution will be initiated in time for the 12th July hearing. At that point arrest papers may be issued and Zuckerberg will become a wanted felon.
These actions have arisen from a writ petition filed in the Lahore High Court on 19th May (W.P. NO.11559/2010 —-Titled Mohammad Azhar Siddique vs Government of Pakistan. In this Writ the Petitioner Azhar Siddique, a lawyer, blamed the government of Pakistan for failing to register an FIR against Facebook for not removing the blasphemous page even after thousands of complaints.
The High Court on May 31st temporarily lifted the national ban on Facebook but ordered the Deputy Attorney General to take further legal action. The FIR against Zuckerberg appears to be the path chosen to comply with the court order.
The Pakistan action is not a precedent. Earlier this year three Google executives were convicted because of violation of Italian law relating to material posted on YouTube.
The Burning Questions
- Precisely which sites are the Pakistan government banning? Is the full list of 10,500 sites available?
- Precisely how is the government managing the censorship?
- What risks would Internet users in Pakistan face if they use circumvention and anonymisation techniques to access banned sites?
- For experts on Pakistan law – are there any avenues of appeal against the government’s actions?
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Net access blocked by government restrictions? Use Psiphon from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. Go here for details.