Pakistan government blocks bloggers ahead of Bush visit

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Monday, March 6, 2006

Pakistani bloggers have been reporting this week that the Pakistani government has started blocking local access to the blogging tool Blogger.com. Blogger.com, along with its companion domain blogspot.com, is one of the most widely used blogging tools in Pakistan. Because of the government's decision to block the site, many Pakistani bloggers are now unable to update their blogs.

Bloggers are debating whether the move by the Pakistani government is a sign of a long-term online censorship campaign, or a temporary move to prevent potentially embarrassing blog coverage of U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to the country this weekend.

"Truth is — it may have very little to do with Bush's visit," writes Indian blogger Neha Viswanathan on the Global Voices email list, run by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. "The anti-Bush protest has hardly found a voice online. I really do think this might be the first of other blocks. This might be on a very experimental basis to see how far they go. The Pakistani govt has hardly had any dialogue with bloggers at all. "

"The other theory is of course the one on Danish cartoons- which is likely," she continues. "But there is so much content on that outside of the blogosphere (the limited one at Blogspot) that it doesn't' seem to fit together. I wouldn't be surprised if the govt of Pakistan comes up with an IT censorship policy."

Other bloggers see a more direct connection with the Bush visit. "I have communicated with several bloggers and friends back in Pak[istan]," writes UAE-based Pakistani blogger Omer Alvie. "So far there's no resolution to this problem. Bush's visit in Pakistan is resulting in protests, a strike in Lahore and curfew areas in Islamabad. The feeling among bloggers is this is all rather suspect. Neha, might be right this might be on experimental basis. I feel this a a [sic] precursor to what the government can do in the future."

To date, the Pakistani government has offered no comment on the decision to block online access to Blogger.com.

Sources

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