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South Asia Censorship News


2020: April-June

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Legal Battleground...

In a censorship battle royale, Pakistan's high court has ordered the internet censors to decide if the PlayerUnknown's Battleground should be banned


Link Here21st May 2020
PlayerUnknown's Battleground is a 2017 South Korea Battle Royale by PUBG Corporation.

The game made the news in spring 2019 when it was banned in Nepal, Jordan, Iraq and parts of India. In Pakistan calls for a ban were directed to the courts and so the country is a little behind the curve.

A petition filed in the Lahore High Court stated that the players of the online game were facing psychological problems like lack of decision-making capabilities and social relations, as well as taking them aside from their academic activities and creating violent behaviour.

The court responded on 18thh May 2020 by rather passing the buck to Pakistan's internet censors. The court seems to have agreed with the petitioner that the game should be banned but has ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to take the final decision within 6 weeks.

 

 

An Imran Khan beamer is hit for six...

US internet giants threaten total boycott of Pakistan over its extreme internet censorship law just enacted


Link Here5th May 2020
Earlier this month, the government of Pakistan enacted some of the most authoritarian and restrictive online censorship laws outside Communist China. The laws seems to be based on European and UK laws to hold the internet companies responsible for whatever users post.

Although the likes of Google and Facebook usually bow down to local law, this new law was a step too far. Google, Twitter, and Facebook have surprised many by taking a stand against the Pakistani government's censorship plans and threatening to pull out of the country if the plans aren't changed. And remarkably, it seems to be working.

Pakistan's new law is misleadingly titled the Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020. It gives the country's censors the power to shut down a huge range of online content. It would require tech companies to remove this content within 24 hours of it being posted.

Tech companies would also be duty-bound to stop post of various types of content from becoming accessible to Pakistani users in real-time and appears to make them responsible for the content of posts put up by users.

Tech companies would also be required to store user data on local servers and open headquarters in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

The main internet companies have now got together under the banner of the Asia Internet Coalition and have written a frank and critical letter to  Prime Minister, Imran Khan. It explains that if the law isn't changed all the companies will withdraw from the Pakistani market altogether.

In response Pakistani officials have duly committed to review the regulations this week and have said they will now conduct a comprehensive and broad consultation process with all relevant segments of civil society and technology companies.

Perhaps the cooperative stand taken by the internet giants may be something for the UK to consider in its own plans for a repressive new 'online harms censorship law. It would seem entirely reasonable for the companies to take a stand against being held responsible for all the world's ills.

 

 

Keeping people happy during lockdown...

India has quietly unblocked Pornhub


Link Here9th April 2020
After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered into a nationwide shutdown, reports out of that country indicated that at least some of the hundreds of porn sites blocked there since October of 2018 were quietly coming back online .

AVN.com reported that though there was no official lifting of the porn ban, PornHub quietly became accessible to Indian internet users just a day after the stay-at-home order went into effect, albeit via the site's .org address.

Locked-down Indian citizens have been accessing PornHub content at a record rate since Modi's shutdown order, according to a report by India's Free Press Journal. Pornhub has reported a staggering 95% increase in traffic from India as of late last week.

The tube site xHamster reported a 20% rise in Indian traffic over the first three weeks in March .

Some online commenters theorized that the government had quietly relaxed the national porn ban as an added incentive to keep Indians in their homes during the scheduled 21-day lockdown.

 

 

An epidemic of censorship...

Indian government applied for news censorship powers but was turned down by the Supreme Court


Link Here1st April 2020
The Indian government must surely have caused mass panic when locking down the country with no notice to give migrant labour no chance to return home leaving them stranded and penniless in major cities.

Now the government is ironically seeking mass news censorship powers claiming that it is the uncensored press that is causing panic.

The Indian government has approached the Supreme Court seeking a directive to news outlets to refrain from publishing any COVID-19-related news without clearance from the government. The Supreme Court denied the request, according to the judgment reviewed by CPJ.

The government had justified the request for the blanket order by claiming that fake or inaccurate reporting could cause panic in the country and had proposed setting up a separate mechanism for clearance of any coverage on the pandemic. However, the court said it will not interfere with the free discussion about the pandemic, but directed news outlets to refer to and publish the official version about the developments.

The government invoked the Disaster Management Act on March 11, which makes the act of creating panic a criminal offense. According to this law , any false claim or warning is punishable with up to two years imprisonment and a fine, or both. The government has also invoked the colonial-era Epidemic Diseases Act under which the punishment for spreading misleading information is up to six months in jail, a fine of 1,000 Indian rupees (US$15), or both.


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