03/15/2017, 14.44
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Pakistani Catholics: Social media ban "is not the solution" to online blasphemy

by Kamran Chaudhry

Yesterday, the National Assembly has ordered the closure of websites that contain insults against the prophet. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. The announcement could also affect Radio Veritas. Secretary of the Commission for the Conference of Social Communication of the Bishops: "The mistake of a few should not compromise the good of many."

Lahore (AsiaNews) - The social media ban "is not the solution for blasphemous comments posted online" say some Catholic leaders commenting to AsiaNews on the ban imposed yesterday by the National Assembly. MEPs have established the closure and disposal of internet sites that publish offenses against the prophet.

Meanwhile the High Court in Islamabad has ordered an investigation of the Federal Investigation Agency on the online activity of the five intellectuals and bloggers kidnapped in January who reappeared after a month of imprisonment and torture.

Even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered the authorities to remove all blasphemous content from the internet and bring those responsible to justice.

Fr. Qaiser Feroz, executive secretary of the Commission for Social Communications of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference, said: "We condemn the Facebook pages containing blasphemous comments, but we are against a total ban. Rather, people must learn to use the media more responsibly. "

By approving the National Assembly's decision yesterday Sharif wrote on his Twitter profile: "Every kind of insult to the dignity of the Prophet Muhammad is unforgivable." He added that "the love for the Prophet Muhammad is the most important asset for the faithful."

A few hours before the high court in the capital had begun investigations into the blogs of activists kidnapped for criticizing positions of the radical fringes of the government and armed forces. Last month, the intellectuals were officially accused of blasphemy, a crime punishable by the death penalty in Pakistan.

After reappearing from captivity after more than a month, the authorities claim they all have fled abroad, even if there has been no confirmation.

The silence was broken by one of the targeted intellectuals,  Ahmad Waqas Goraya, a blogger of Lahore, who has returned to live in the Netherlands. The exile described being tortured "beyond all limits", with punches, slaps and forced into painful positions.

Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, judge of the court in the capital, said that from now on the authorities can block sites that contain offensive material.

Fr. Feroz believes that the decision is wrong and is concerned. "Every day - he says - we publish at least 15 radio programs of the Urdu-language service of Radio Veritas on our Facebook page. Thanks to us hundreds of people, including many Muslims, listen to messages and stories of hope. The mistakes made by a few should not jeopardize the good of many. "

Fr. Morris Jalal, who streams his Sunday homilies live on Facebook, rejects the idea of ​​the social network block. "No one should insult the religion of others – he declares - but there is also a lot of positive content online. The Church uses these platforms to disseminate songs, programs and reach the community of Urdu language living abroad. All this is very important when you consider that even the poor and the uneducated have access to social media. "

In the past, Pakistan has already implemented forms of censorship and restrictions on the use of internet. In 2007, the government blocked the YouTube video that was offensive to the former President Pervez Musharraf. In 2010, the authorities temporarily blocked Facebook for some caricatures of Muhammad. Last year the government lifted a three year ban on YouTube imposed following the publication of the film "Innocence of Muslims” considered blasphemous by both Christians and Muslims. 

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