Voice Of America (VOA), Urdu website blocked

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The Voice of America Urdu website https://www.urduvoa.com/ on Thursday suddenly became inaccessible in Pakistan and was reportedly blocked by the authorities.

There was no official word on what led to the shutting down of the website.

A message that showed up said: “Surf Safely! This website is not accessible. The site you are trying to access contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan.”

A total of 6,149 websites were blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) last year on the recommendation of Web Evaluation Cell (WEC) which was established by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony.

The WEC has been assigned to scrutinise websites that contain objectionable material or promote sectarianism. So far, it has evaluated as many as 46,200 websites out of which 15,481 were those identified through complaints of the public. The complaints resulted in 6,149 domains being blocked by the telecommunication authority.

Meanwhile in March this year, PTA had informed the Supreme Court (SC) that approximately 0.4 million websites promoting obscene content have been blocked by the body.

PTA also stated that due to technical restraints, the complete blockage of obscene material on the internet is not possible in real time, but the cut down is possible by using alternate technical methods including proxies.

It was informed that the PTA had already initiated steps to raise awareness by requesting the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to install suitable filters in all educational, technical and vocational institutions where free access to the internet is offered.

Moreover, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Nayyar Rizvi had submitted a report on behalf of PTA, saying that 9,846 proxies had been blocked.

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