“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
I recently received the following e-mail from Automattic concerning my other blog The Saturnalian:
A Pakistan authority has demanded that we disable the following content on your WordPress.com site:
Unfortunately, we must comply to keep WordPress.com accessible for everyone in the region. As a result, we have disabled this content only for Internet visitors originating from Pakistan. They will instead see a message explaining why the content was blocked.
Visitors from outside of Pakistan are not affected.
You and your readers may be interested in these suggestions for bypassing Internet restrictions.
For your reference, we have included a copy of the complaint. No reply is necessary, but please let us know if you have any questions.
— Begin complaint —
Dear WordPress Team,
I am writing on behalf of Web Analysis Team of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) which has been designated for taking appropriate measures for regulating Internet Content in line with the prevailing laws of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In lieu of above it is highlighted that few of the web pages hosted on your platform are extremely Blasphemous and are hurting the sentiments of many Muslims around Pakistan. The same has also been declared blasphemous under Pakistan Peal Code section 295- B and is in clear violation of Section 37 of Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016 and Section 19 of Constitution of Pakistan.
The below mentioned websites can be found on following URL’s:-
You are requested to contribute towards maintaining peace and harmony in the world by discontinuation of hosting of these websites for viewership in Pakistan with immediate effect. We will be happy to entertain any query if deemed necessary and looking forward for your favorable response at your earliest.
Web Analysis Team
— End complaint —
At first I was confused as to what on that particular page triggered the Pakistanis. Then I read the comments on that page and it became clear.
Apparently some of the comments were considered blasphemy against Islam. In Islam, images, including drawings of the religion’s founder Muhammad, are forbidden. In addition to several blasphemist statements against Islam from then-presidential candidate Nathan Norman and a satirical Muslim using the name Wahid Tariq Fasal, Norman posted an image from the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo featuring a nude depiction of Muhammad. This same depiction had been featured on Saturn’s Repository in a January 2015 blog post honoring the twelve victims of the Islamist attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters that month.
I have re-published the offending material here and at The Saturnalian as a protest against Pakistani censorship facilitated by Automattic. This conveys to a censor or potential censor that an act of censorship will be met with multiple reproductions of the censored material, nullifying the censorship and reversing the censor’s intent. Without the right to offend there is no right to free expression. In a web of censorship, Saturn’s Repository stands as a free space for free speech.
The offending comments begin below: