Coalition of US-Based Firms Urges Pakistan to End Social Media Censorship

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Calling Twitter's move of blocking several accounts in Pakistan to prohibit access to "blasphemous" and "unethical" content as "violation of basic human rights", a coalition of US-based organisations has urged Islamabad to end social media censorship.

"We are deeply disturbed to learn that government officials in Pakistan have, based on the country's blasphemy laws, demanded that the micro-blogging site Twitter censor both user accounts and individual posts that they have deemed to be offensive to religious feelings of the Muslims in the country," the coalition of more than a dozen organisations said in a letter to the Pakistan Ambassador to the UN, Masood Khan.

"This is a violation of basic human rights," the letter said. Among the members of the coalition are the Center for Inquiry (CFI), the Ex-Muslims of North America, and a wide array of free thought groups.

The letter reminds Pakistan of its obligations under Articles 18 and 19 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provide for freedom of thought, expression, belief and inquiry.

It also reminds the country of its commitment under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (signed by Pakistan in 2008), which provides for freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom from coercion by the state.

"Censoring of content on Twitter simply because it may offend religious sensibilities, and persecuting those who publish this content, are clear violations of these principles to which Pakistan has agreed," the letter said.

"The ability to think freely, to have doubt, to investigate doubt, and to arrive at new conclusions, advances our shared communities.

"To survive and flourish, we must learn to civilly discuss important matters, including and especially religion. True political and economic stability depends on openness, and falls quickly in the face of censorship," it said.

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