New study: Censorship, bans, poverty and illiteracy limit growth prospects of Internet in Arab world
Most Arab governments do not exclude the Internet from the restrictions they impose on the media, and the constraints placed on political activity has a negative impact on Arab Internet websites and users, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRINFO) said earlier this week.
Of the 11 Arab countries included a recent study, three countries - Jordan, UAE, and Qatar - provide a relatively higher degree of on-line freedom. The other eight Arab countries impose heavy security restriction on Internet users, which are commonly featured in the Arab world, HRINFO said in its first study dubbed “The Internet in the Arab World: A New Space of Repression?”
Initially, HRINFO aimed to shed light on the use of the Internet in the Arab world, the number of Arab Internet users, and the number of the Arabic language websites, and examine the reasons why they are so low. As the study progressed, the initial analysis of the data collected induced HRINFO to release the study quickly, in order to declare that it is the governments’ policies of censorship and bans, alongside with poverty and illiteracy bear the responsibility for impeding the growth of the Internet in the Arab world.
“Arab governments typically use the protection of Islamic values and public morals to justify banning websites of human rights or political opposition groups that censure these governments; even forums are banned in Arab countries,” Gamal Eid, HRINFO’s executive director and the writer of the study said. “As a matter of fact,” he added, “most of these governments oppose freedom of expression in particular, and other political and civil freedoms in general.”
The study reveals that while some states arrest Internet users just for surfing websites of opposition parties or groups, other countries use the Internet to trap socially rejected segments in violation of regulatory and legal requirements.
The study also exposes the "false claims" made by a country like Tunisia, which has declared itself worthy of hosting the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society.
HRINFO calls upon the international society to avoid bestowing legitimacy upon Tunisia’s claim about its respect of freedom of expression, and to avoid contributing to the ill-treatment of Tunisian citizens from a totalitarian regime that does not respect the citizens’ human rights and liberties.
“Neither the internet will refrain from publishing the violations made by the governments and the security regimes, nor prisons will stop human rights activists everywhere from exposing further violations”, Gamal Eid said. He asserted that “Arabs deserve to live a free life. Since policing and repression of freedom of expression have proved to be failures, now it is time to exercise the freedom of expression itself”. (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)