“Another attack on our freedom of expression”

Catholics in Pakistan against TikTok ban © Jens Kalaene

Catholics in Pakistan have joined protests by civil rights activists against the ban on Chinese video platform TikTok. Human rights organization Amnesty International also criticized the ban.

"This is another attack on our freedom of expression," the founder and director of Pakistani cable channel Catholic TV, Father Morris Jalal, told Asian news service Ucanews on Tuesday. Behind it, he says, is not concern for morality, but a political strategy. "The government does not tolerate criticism," Jalal said. Pakistan's telecom authority had banned social media platform TikTok on Friday for "immoral" and "indecent" content.

Amnesty International (AI) also criticized the ban. "The #TikTokBan is happening against a backdrop of silencing voices on TV, disappearing columns from newspapers, blocking websites and banning TV ads, " tweeted international human rights organization. The app has been downloaded 43 million times in Pakistan, including 14.7 million this year alone, according to analysis.

More than 800.000 websites blocked

In total, in Pakistan, more than 800.000 websites blocked according to information from Pakistani civil rights groups, Ucanews reported. In addition to sites with pornographic content, those critical of Pakistan's security and foreign policies, political party homepages and social media accounts are affected by the censorship, he said. From 2012 to 2016, the video platform Youtube was inaccessible due to alleged blasphemous content in Pakistan.

TikTok is controversial internationally due to concerns about data and youth protection, as well as spying and censorship in favor of the Chinese government. Muslim-majority Indonesia temporarily blocked access to TikTok in 2018 for illegal content such as pornography and blasphemy. India banned the platform in June 2020 due to threats to national security. In the U.S. last week, a court decision initially suspended the blocking of TikTok demanded by President Donald Trump.

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