Exclusive — TikTokers angry, devastated; call TikTok ban a blow to creative freedoms

Speaking to Geo.tv, TikTok's biggest stars fear livelihoods and months of hard work wrecked after TikTok ban in Pakistan

Fatima Rehman
Khawaja Burhan Uddin
TikTokers have called for an immediate lift on the ban and urged authorities to reconsider their decision. Photo: TikTok

When Chinese application TikTok was banned in Pakistan on Friday, the Pakistani TikTok community was caught unawares. To many, the platform was their identity and their livelihood — an integral part of who they are and what they do.

As the reality of the ban set in, many of the biggest stars vented their anger at the move, terming it as yet another blow to creative freedom in Pakistan.

Geo.tv reached out to some of the biggest stars on the platform to touch base and get their reactions on the government's decision.

'So much talent emerged through this app'

Highlighting the fact that the application was a source of income for many, Pakistan’s biggest TikTok star, Jannat Mirza, called for the removal of the ban.

"In general, it was a good app. It was accessible for everyone. So much talent emerged through this app," she emphasised.

She conceded that it may have been used for “notorious and hate activities”, "but it [TikTok] must continue, with strict rules and conditions".

The social media sensation recently became the first in the country to amass 10 million followers.

The TikTok handles of popular stars Jannat Mirza and Zulqurnain Sikander. — TikTok

Calling out the authorities for their unfair treatment of the artists' community, Zulqurnain Sikander, who has a fan following of over 8 million on Tiktok, condemned the ban and urged the government to lift the restriction since it was a source of income for many struggling artists who had shifted to the platform due to lack of opportunities in the industry.

“There are dozens of other social media applications where immoral and indecent content is shared in Pakistan. Why is the government not taking any strict action against those platforms?” Sikander asked, questioning why the actions of “10 out of 100 people" got TikTok banned in Pakistan.

Sikander is popular for his over-the-top comedy videos on the application and has also contributed to spreading awareness about coronavirus through his creative sketches on TikTok.

‘Unneeded and Unfair’

"Blocking an engaging platform like Tiktok is never the solution to curtail the sharing of indecent content. Those who share such content will find other ways of doing so," another popular TikToker, Daniyal Sohail, who has nearly 200K followers on the application, shared. 

“The government could have simply blocked such unethical content with proper monitoring on the application. This decision seems unneeded and unfair,” he remarked.

Referring to the recent ban on online streaming series "Churails", and discussions underway regarding strict censorship policies on YouTube and social media overall, Sohail noted that this will suppress the emerging talent of the country, which is already in dire straits due to lack of opportunities and indistinct channels.

Sohail hoped that the ban is temporary and will be lifted soon, citing examples of a recent ban on the online game Player Unknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), which was later removed after the massive hue and cry on social media.

The TikTok handles of Jam Safdar and Daniyal Sohail. — TikTok

“Such restrictions not only discourage newcomers but also shuts the doors to content creators who already struggle for recognition,” Sohail warned.

‘Ending means of income for many’

Another content creator named Jam Safdar, who has a dedicated fan following for his bizarre yet creative videos on Tiktok, censured the authorities for taking away a source of income for many like him who used the platform as a means to earn bread and butter for their families. 

Safdar, who hails from a village in Punjab, complained that he had raked in over 1.3 million followers on the application "with my blood and sweat."

Safdar — who is known for his kitschy video effects — took an interest in TikTok after watching his six-year-old making videos. 

“It is like looking at years of hard work go down the drain,” the TikToker said.

After the government’s ban on the application, he will try connecting with his fans through other platforms like YouTube and Instagram.

Read more: 7 Pakistani TikTok stars who will feel the pinch of PTA's ban

'An entire market finished'

Meanwhile, Uruba Tazeen, with a fan base of nearly 365K followers, said she agreed with the PTA's reasons, but said that censor mechanisms could have been introduced to address the issues rather than ban the app outright.

"You cannot blame the technology for your regulation and monitoring at the end of the day".

"Vulgar and 18+ content should be monitored and censored. However, banning is not the solution," she stressed.

She noted that several marketing agencies had entered agreements with TikTok stars and worried that they will face immense setbacks. 

"They have wiped out an entire market through the ban."

The TikTok handles of Warda Javaid and Uruba Tazeen. — TikTok

"It is shutting down the creative freedom of artists. Some TikTokers create content that is really out of the box — this ban is devastating news for them,” she said, adding that several people had gotten an opportunity to grow and groom on the platform.


Warda Javed, with nearly 800K followers, conceded that the ban "may be a good thing as several videos are uploaded on the video-sharing platform that isn't suitable for families and children".

"TikTok needs to add filters to its process and remove 'immoral' videos from its platform," she said. 

But she agreed that the ban seemed excessive: "Due to 10% of the people — who upload provocative content — the rest of the content creators are left to suffer."

The creator said she earned nearly 50K a month through the platform, adding that people who rely on income through it will be "devastated".