On the heels of the assassination of a prominent governor who advocated for outlawing the death sentence as a punishment for blasphemy, the Pakistani government has ordered that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) immediately begin blocking websites “propagating [an] anti-Islam agenda.” The government has also taken actions that suggest the beginnings of a witch hunt for website operators that could be categorized as “anti-Islam.” The government will additionally monitor SMS traffic for the purpose of identifying and blocking messages with “anti-Islam content.”
A political movement to more carefully scope the crime of blasphemy and reduce the maximum sentence to 10-year imprisonment had been gaining force in recent months. But the assassination on Jan. 4 of Punjab governor and advocate for the new law Salman Taseer seemed to empower the conservative forces that opposed the change.
Last week, the Pakistani government announced that it does not intend to amend the blasphemy law. In a separate statement, Mr. Rehman Malik, the federal interior minister, introduced the new censorship efforts and urged young people to report, through email or phone, websites that they believe contain “anti-Islam” sentiment.
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