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Monday, May 31

Pakistan court orders Facebook access restored; Bangladesh temporarily blocks Facebook (UPDATED 12:30 PM EDT)

The latest AP report is that the lifting of the ban on Facebook in Pakistan was not total and was lifted purportedly only after Facebook "officials" apologized. It's not clear at this point whether Facebook apologized. Either way, Pakistan's government surely realized that the ban on Facebook, YouTube, etc. adds to the wholly deserved image of Pakistan as a repressive, radical Islamist society -- an actuality the regime has tried to cover up on the world stage.
Pakistan lifts Facebook ban after page removed
By BABAR DOGAR (AP) – 3 hours ago

LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan lifted a ban on Facebook on Monday after officials from the social networking site apologized for a page deemed offensive to Muslims and removed its contents, a top information technology official said. ...

"In response to our protest, Facebook has tendered their apology and informed us that all the sacrilegious material has been removed from the URL," said Najibullah Malik, secretary of Pakistan's information technology ministry, referring to the technical term for a Web page.

Facebook assured the Pakistani government that "nothing of this sort will happen in the future," Malik said.

Officials from the website could not immediately be reached for comment. They said earlier the contents of the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" page did not violate Facebook's terms.

The page encouraged users to post images of the prophet to protest threats made by a radical Muslim group against the creators of the American TV series "South Park" for depicting Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode earlier this year.

Pakistan blocked Facebook on May 19 following a ruling by one of the country's highest courts. The Lahore High Court reversed its ruling Monday because of Facebook's response, paving the way for the government to restore access, Malik said.

The government will continue to block some Web pages that contain "sacrilegious material," but Malik declined to specify which ones.

The Facebook controversy sparked a handful of protests across Pakistan, many by student members of radical Islamic groups. Some of the protesters carried signs advocating holy war against the website for allowing the page.

Bangladesh also decided to block Facebook on Sunday but said it would restore access to the site if the offensive material was removed. ...

Anger over the Facebook controversy also prompted the Pakistani government to block access to YouTube briefly, saying there was growing sacrilegious content on the video sharing website. The government restored access to YouTube last week but said it would continue to block videos offensive to Muslims that are posted on the site.
AFP – 1 hour ago:
LAHORE, Pakistan — A Pakistani court on Monday ordered authorities to restore access to social networking website Facebook, nearly two weeks after it was blocked nationwide in a row over blasphemy.

Justice Ejaz Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court issued the directive after ordering the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority on May 19 to block Facebook over "blasphemous" drawings of Prophet Mohammed that appeared on the website.

"Restore Facebook. We don't want to block access to information," Chaudhry told the court.
BBC May 30:
Bangladesh has blocked access to Facebook after satirical images of the prophet Muhammad and the country's leaders were uploaded, say reports.

One man has been arrested and charged with "spreading malice and insulting the country's leaders" with the images, an official told the AFP news agency.

Officials said the ban was temporary and access to the site would be restored once the images were removed.

It comes after Pakistan invoked a similar ban over "blasphemous content".

A spokesman for the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) told AFP Facebook had "hurt the religious sentiments of the country's majority Muslim population" by carrying "offensive images" of Mohammed.

"Some links in the site also contained obnoxious images of our leaders including the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the leader of the opposition," said the commission's acting chair, Hasan Mahmud Delwar.

On Saturday, one man was arrested by the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in Dhaka and charged with uploading the images.

"Facebook will be re-opened once we erase the pages that contain the obnoxious images," said Mr Delwar.

Pakistan blocked all access to Facebook - along with YouTube, Wikipedia and Flickr - last week after images of Muhammad started to appear online.

People were invited to submit their images of him in the run-up to "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" held by some users of Facebook on 20 May.

Most Muslims consider representations of the Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemous.

Thousands of people joined anti-Facebook protests in Bangladesh on Friday demanding the site be blocked over the contest.

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