Pakistan eases curbs on YouTube

Anti-Facebook protest in Lahore There have been protests against Facebook across Pakistan

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Pakistan has partially unblocked the YouTube video sharing website, but hundreds of its links to "blasphemous content" remain barred, officials say.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says that YouTube is now working again, although internet downloads have been slower than usual.

Our correspondent says that the Facebook website remains completely out of action.

The sites were blocked when images of Prophet Muhammad appeared on Facebook.

People were invited to draw images of him in the run-up to "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" held by some users of Facebook on 20 May.

Most Muslims consider representations of the Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemous.

The move drew a furious reaction from Muslims in Pakistan, where anti-Western sentiment is already high.

But before any serious unrest could break out, the country's authorities blocked Facebook - along with other websites like YouTube, Wikipedia and Flickr.

"We have lifted the ban on only that part [of YouTube] which is not displaying any sacrilegious or profane material," Naguibullah Malik, Secretary of Information Technology and Telecom, told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.

YouTube is one of the most popular websites in the country of 170 million.

A court in Lahore last week ordered that the block on Facebook should remain at least until 31 May, when it is scheduled to hear a petition from Islamic lawyers.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Wednesday that it was wrong to deny access to entire websites, but that individual pages containing blasphemous material should remain banned.

"We discussed this matter in the cabinet meeting today. I told my colleagues that blocking the websites was not the right thing," Mr Malik told the AFP news agency.

"I said that only particular pages that contain blasphemous material should be blocked, not the entire website.

He added that both Facebook and YouTube "would be open in the next few days".

Reuters reports that Mr Malik, who has his own Facebook page, had to start sending messages on Twitter after Facebook was blocked.

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