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Implacable Adversaries …Arab Gov’ts and the Internet
" Implacable Adversaries " .. under this title, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, issued its second report about the Internet freedom in the Arab world, which was declared in a seminar, on Wednesday, in Cairo’s Press Syndicate,. The seminar witnessed a fierce attack on the Arab regimes, as it accused them of exerting various efforts to curb the freedom of opinion and expr
Friday, December 15,2006 00:00
by Amr Magdy, Ikhwanweb

" Implacable Adversaries " .. under this title, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, issued its second report about the Internet freedom in the Arab world, which was declared in a seminar, on Wednesday, in Cairo’s Press Syndicate,.

The seminar witnessed a fierce attack on the Arab regimes, as it accused them of exerting various efforts to curb the freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet; the participants demanded enacting a clear legislation for publishing on the Internet in a way that protects it from the tyranny of the regimes.

The executive director of the network, Gamal Eid, confirmed that the Arab governments united their efforts for curbing the freedom of the Web surfers, pointing out that the number of Internet users in the Arab world jumped from 14 millions in 2004 to 26 millions in 2006.

However, the governments encourage using " certain kinds and bypass the Internet as a means for the freedom of opinion and expression, while they show themselves as governments that encourage technology to improve their image " he said.

Eid cited the example of Sudan " that left the Internet free for 4 to 5 years, but, after the government found the spread of using the Internet as a means for change, it imposed a censorship and introduced the technology of blocking websites".

Eid cited other countries like Saudi Arabia that- he said- was one of the last Arab countries to provide the Internet; it is currently- according to a decision that organizes the Internet access- providing all technical capabilities to block websites.

Saudi Arabia is believed to be the only country that officially and very clearly declares that it blocks 400 thousand Web sites, although the same official statement mentioned that only 95 % of these Web sites are porn, this means that there other 20 thousand non-pornographic Web sites which are blocked.

Internet legislation
 The report author, Ehab Al Zalaqi, confirmed no Arab country has a detailed E.publishing legislation; consequently ", what the government does instead is to include it in other laws, like the emergency law or the ordinary publishing law, as is the case in Egypt".
He mentioned that Egypt tries " to form a lobby group to curb the Internet". He cited the Egyptian Interior Minister Habib Al-Adli who lodged a suggestion about this in the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers in Tunisia last February 2006.
Al Zalaqi said blocking web sites according to a legislation is not the problem; this is because countries all over the world are blocking web sites, but according to clear legislations and laws and after a judicial approval " but the problem in our countries is in the way of blocking web sites as it happens without any permit from the prosecution ot a court ruling, it takes place according to orders of policemen and Interior Ministry employees".

Huge Failure
Eid said that the Arab governments reaped noting but bad reputation for curbing the Internet access, while they failed in stopping the flow of information, something that Al Zalaqi supported, saying " after Saudi Arabia spent millions of dollars to block the pornographic web sites, a study proved that 75 % of the Saudi young men surf the Internet to visit these web sites".
Eid explained that choosing the report title " stubborn opponent " stems from the fact that the more the repression attempts increase, the more new activists appear over this repression, while the initial title of the report was " a space of repression " that carries more questions than acknowledging motives.
"After the government were previously blocking web sites in a complete silence, there are increasing voices that call for not only blocking the web sites, but the writers should be punished and imprisoned as well" Al Zalaqi said, confirming that there is a government bill for publishing on the Internet which is being prepared in Egypt,and it primarily aims at obstructing the activities of the bloggers.
It is worth noting that this 190-page report is the second of its kind and it covered 18 countries instead of 11 countries in the first report that was issued in 2004, and it covered the complicated situation of the Internet providers in the Palestinian territories.
It pointed out that the Islamic web sites still lead the Arab web sites, in addition to including a complete chapter about the phenomenon of the Web logs in the Arab world.


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