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Pakistan government blocks Facebook over Muhammad drawing competition

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority [official website] on Wednesday ordered Internet service providers to block [press release] social networking site Facebook [website] in response to a competition created by a group of the website's members entitled "Draw Muhammad Day." The PTA issued the order following a decision by the Lahore High Court (LHC) [JURIST news archive] to block the website indefinitely after Pakistan officials learned the competition would take place on May 20. The court also ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] to open an investigation into why the competition was created. The government initially planned only to block access to the group's Facebook page, but after the LHC decision was issued, the Ministry of Information Technology [official website] immediately blocked the entire website.

Depicting the Prophet Muhammad is considered blasphemous by Muslims, and has been a source of international controversy since 2005 when a Danish newspaper published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a series of cartoons [JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month, a Danish public prosecutor for the Utrecht District Court filed an appeal [JURIST report] against an April ruling [JURIST report] acquitting the Arab European League (AEL) of hate speech charges stemming from posting an inflammatory cartoon on their website insinuating that the Holocaust was fabricated. The court ruled that publishing the cartoon was not a criminal offense because it was intended to be a contribution to public debate regarding a perceived double standard in the distribution of the Danish Muhammad cartoons. The prosecutor is appealing in order to determine if the cartoon was "unnecessarily offensive," stating that the court failed to rule on this issue. The prosecutor also found fault with the court's agreement that the cartoon pointed out a double standard, saying that the controversy surrounding the Danish cartoon depicting Muhammad does not equate with the publishing of the AEL's cartoon. The group depicted in the Muhammad cartoon was a "criminal group," the prosecutor said, but the Jewish people "still have no share in the above social debate."

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