California: Wikimedia Foundation, best known as the hosting platform for 'Wikipedia', has urged Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to restore access to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in the country.

This request follows after PTA blocked internet access to 'Wikipedia' in the country on Friday, for failure to remove from the site content deemed "unlawful" by the government.

"On Friday, February 3, 2023, Pakistan's Telecommunications Authority blocked Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia Foundation calls on Pakistan to revoke the ban," an official release from the Wikimedia Foundation said.

The Foundation received a notification from the PTA on February 1, 2023, stating "the services of Wikipedia have been degraded for 48 hours" for failure to remove content from the site deemed "unlawful" by the government.

The notification further mentioned that a block of Wikipedia could follow, if the Foundation failed to comply with the takedown orders.

"As of Friday, February 3, our internal traffic reports indicate that Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects are no longer accessible to users in Pakistan," added the release.

When a PTA spokesperson was contacted late on Friday night and inquired about the blocking of Wikipedia, the official confirmed that "yes" it had been blocked, reported Geo News.

On the instruction of the high court, the PTA degraded -- disrupting and slowing access to the encyclopedia -- website for 48 hours because there was blasphemous content on it.

The Wikimedia Foundation said that access to knowledge is a human right.

"A block of @Wikipedia in Pakistan denies the 5th most populous nation in the world access to the largest free knowledge repository. If it continues, it will also deprive everyone access to Pakistan's history and culture," tweeted The Foundation.

It urged the Pakistan government to "joins us in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restore access to @Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly so that the people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world."

In Pakistan, English Wikipedia receives more than 50 million page views per month, followed by Urdu and Russian Wikipedias. There is also a sizable and engaged community of editors in Pakistan contributing historical and educational content.

Commenting on the development, digital rights activist Usama Khilji criticised the authorities for blocking the information portal, reported Geo News.

"Wikipedia, World's largest encyclopaedia, appears to be blocked in Pakistan by @PTAofficialpk," tweeted Khilji.

Khilji, the director of Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum for digital rights said that the courts and regulator must realise that Wikipedia is a crowd-sourced platform where anyone with an account can edit articles, which they can do instead of blocking the entire website.