Pakistan temporarily banned social media platforms between 11 am to 3 pm local time on Friday in a bid to crack down on violent protests surrounding the banned radical Islamist party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
The Pakistani’s Ministry of Interior issued the order titled “Complete Blocking of Social Media Platforms” and instructed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, and YouTube. The PTA tweeted a confirmation of the order, and said at 4:09pm Pakistan time that the ban had been lifted.
The services were partially restored after 3 pm but rights activists have criticised the blackout and warned that it could lead to more severe restrictions on freedoms. The Pakistani government has previously blocked social media in parts of the country where there has been unrest, but this is the first time the government imposed a blanket ban across the nation.
Although no reason was provided by the ministry, the block comes after days of unrest in the country because of protests by the recently proscribed TLP. Earlier this week, the government banned the leader of TLP and then banned the party itself on Thursday stating that it has “reasonable grounds to believe that the TLP is engaged in terrorism and acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country.” The protests are in retaliation to the arrest and ban. The social media block comes a day after Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) banned coverage of TLP by all television and radio channels.
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