Freedom of speech in the Middle East? Well not if it's distributed on the internet.  Arab Internet 'surfers' are hitting a snag, or rip-current, in the region, and they might not be able to ride these waves of change.
Are the tides turning against Arab internet users? Human rights NGO, Reporters Without Borders, have officially classified Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria as 'Enemies of the Internet' but there are others not yet on the list that are well on their way to becoming online pariahs. Under surveillance so-to-speak are Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey but countries like Iraq and Jordan  are also cracking down on internet freedom. Even ostensibly permissive Lebanon is trying to remind internet users  that the Sky (Bar's) not the limit. With so many countries on the 'enemies' list from the Arab world we should ask ourselves - why?
Middle East governments would have us believe that they are censoring for our own good: after all, who wants their kids to stumble across hardcore pornography online ? But there is a more sinister motive. If the freedom to criticize a government with anonymity is disabled then who are they really accountable to? It was George Orwell who said 'freedom is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear.' Now more than ever that is true for the Middle Eastern governments who seek to stamp out their citizens' rights online.
For Arabs at least the information super-highway is fast-approaching a dark tunnel as governments restrict  the right to live in the fast-lane. Those wild days of internet freedom to blog boldly may be counted. As we write, countries in the region are clamping down on their citizens' right to surf with abandon, by way of introducing laws to censor and curb their online enthusiasm.
Above, a screen-shot of the Middle East's internet crackdown.
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