Skip to main content

Pakistani artists challenging YouTube ban

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A government ban on YouTube in Pakistan is being challenged in court Wednesday
  • Pakistani artists who gain exposure through the video channel are hoping the ban is lifted
  • Pakistanis lost access to YouTube last year after clips from a controversial film appeared on the site

(CNN) -- YouTube is a source of entertainment and news for billions around the world, but Pakistanis have lost access to the video site for almost a year after clips of the controversial film "Innocence of Muslims" prompted a government ban.

That ban will be challenged for the first time in court Wednesday -- and activists, as well as artists, some of whose careers were launched on YouTube, are keeping their fingers crossed.

Rapper, singer and songwriter Adil Omar is a musician that has relied on social networking sites to launch his career. Even without a record label, he successfully used YouTube to reach both a domestic and international audience -- collaborating with international artists like Cypress Hill, Everlast, Xzibit and guitarist Slash from Guns 'N Roses.

Producer of anti-Islam film on supervised release

YouTube "has put me out there internationally. I've worked with major artists, been in the mainstream press," Omar said.

Actress: I was misled about movie

But soon after the YouTube ban, response to his album plummeted.

The reasoning over the Muslim protests
Muslims mad at more than the movie?
Imam: Mohammed insults are personal
Actress: I was misled about movie

"I'm getting about a tenth of the promotion I was getting before and I have about a tenth of the sales I was initially getting," he said.

Numbers on YouTube reflect his comment. Omar's last major single "Paki Rambo," released before the YouTube ban, generated more than 320,000 hits. One of his first singles after the ban got just over 30,000 clicks.

Protests erupted across the Arab world last year when trailers for "Innocence of Muslims," an anti-Islam film that mocks the prophet Mohammed, appeared online.

YouTube is not the only social media website that was taken away from Pakistani Web users. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr all have been banned in the past. The recent ban on YouTube, however, is the longest-running act of online censorship in Pakistan's history.

Bytes for All, an organization that fights for digital rights in Pakistan, has worked to lift this censorship -- running a poster campaign, filing petitions and writing to the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

"We do not need dictatorial nannies to tell people what to watch and what not to watch and what decision to take and how to take it. Because after all, it's a democracy. It's not a dictatorship anymore," said Furhan Hussain from Bytes for All.

The ban on YouTube "is in direct violation of the constitution of Pakistan. It violates the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of access to information of the citizens of Pakistan," he said.

CNN reached out for comment repeatedly to Pakistan's minister of information technology but got no response.

Omar, like the activists from Bytes for All, hopes the ban will be lifted soon.

"What I'd like to see happen is for YouTube to open up again. For Pakistani artists and musicians to be able to earn money again and make a living ... to be able to reach an international audience again."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions and pleaded for U.S. help in interviews with CNN.
Hundreds of jihadis in Syria are from abroad -- which countries have the biggest problem?
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0913 GMT (1713 HKT)
Libyan militia members have apparently turned the abandoned U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, into a water park.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
Obama's remarks that he didn't yet have a strategy for ISIS in Syria is widely criticized.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1208 GMT (2008 HKT)
Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive, prompting criticism.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2220 GMT (0620 HKT)
In a major breach of privacy, a hacker leaked a series of pictures allegedly showing Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities in the nude.
Instead of weaving garments sold in the West, children should be in school
According to the International Labour Organization, there are 168 million child laborers around the world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT