Social media blackout in Pakistan amid anti-France protests
Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday blocked social media platforms amid fears that activists of a radical Islamist group might use the technology to stoke violent protests against last year’s depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in France.
Followers of far-right Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a group that supports the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, have blocked roads and chocked streets at deadly protests that started on Monday, reports dpa news agency.
The protesters are demanding that the government fulfill an earlier promise to expel the French Ambassador by April 20 over the publication of a cartoon depicting the prophet last year.
At least five people including two police officers have been killed in the protests, which have prompted the France Embassy in Islamabad to urge French nationals to leave Pakistan temporarily.
“Social media has been blocked for a few hours so that troublemakers can not use it during Friday prayers congregations,” an official told dpa.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and TikTok are inaccessible across the country, including the capital Islamabad.
Political parties, Islamist groups and militant organisations like Pakistani Taliban heavily rely on social media platforms to connect with their followers.