Friends Again: Pakistan Court Lifts Ban On Facebook

On Monday, a Pakistani court ordered authorities to restore access to social networking site Facebook after company officials reportedly apologized for a page deemed offensive to Muslims and removed its contents. The Lahore High Court imposed the nationwide ban almost two weeks ago amid outrage over the page, which encouraged users to post drawings of Muhammad, as many Muslims consider depictions of Islam’s Prophet to be blasphemous.

Earlier today, Justice Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court reversed the 19 May order to the Pakistani authorities to block the site.

“Restore Facebook. We don’t want to block access to information,” Justice Chaudhry told the court. He also requested the government to develop a system to find out how countries like Saudi Arabia were blocking access to “blasphemous” content on the internet.

According to Bloomberg / BusinessWeek, the ban was lifted after the court was told the company had exchanges with Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Chaudhry Zulfiqar, the lawyer who asked the court to block the popular social networking site on May 19, told a Bloomberg reporter by telephone:

“The counsel for the state provided documents showing correspondence between the Facebook management and Richard Holbrooke. According to those documents, Facebook assured the court no blasphemous material will be available to users in Pakistan.”

Pakistani authorities had also blocked access to YouTube for containing “un-Islamic content”, but this ban was at least partially lifted last week.

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

More coverage on Reuters, Al Jazeera English, AFP and BBC.