19 February 2018

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02/02/2007 SYRIA

Censorship accompanies rapid internet growth in Arab states

There are 26 million users who welcome the internet as a means of freedom of thought and information. But censorship is blocking entire websites and tens of millions of blogs, often banning everything that smacks of dissent from the powers that be. Despite widespread interest, the Internet industry is not drawing enough investors.

Damascus (AsiaNews) – The Internet is spreading fast in Arab countries especially among youth who see it as a means to communicate with the rest of the world and to talk freely without obstacles. But censorship is also increasing, blocking entire websites in a bid to maintain control.

The number of internet users in the Arab world has risen from 14 million in June 2004 to 26 million in December 2006. Users are mostly youth and middle-aged men. A survey undertaken by “The Initiative for an Open Arab Internet”, a group comprising lawyers and journalists, concluded that the internet is used to chat, communicate, in one’s free time and to make acquisitions. But it is also used for swift, direct and freer dissemination of messages, news and ideas. However, the survey said that just as websites are growing in number, those “blocked” by Arab censorship are also on the rise.

According to Al Ayham al Saleh, an information technology expert, censorship applied to the Internet is the same as that applied to the press: no longer control aimed at prevention, it holds users and websites fully accountable for any news they post. Arab governments block sites on the pretext that they “advocate terrorism” but there is no precise definition for terrorism so anything can be defined as such, starting from political dissent.

Censors are not concerned about the consequences of their moves to block sites: Al Ayham said that a website blocked in Syria, called Blogsbat, contained 50 million personal blogs, a wealth of information and contacts for Syrian users that was “eliminated”.

The survey found that the internet enjoys substantial freedom in Lebanon alone, while other governments are “very concerned” about a means of communication and information that can reach people’s homes and attracts so much interest, especially among youth.

Religious websites are forever on the increase: amongst the most popular 100 websites, there are 10 with Muslim extremist leanings, not least thanks to the tendency of governments to close an eye to these sites and to oppose sites with political or secular content and those of human rights organisations.

The suspicion of governments has led to the Internet industry not living up to its potential: foreign companies are not tempted to invest and only a few states (like Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates) are in favour of expansion. For example, providers in Syria generally do not link up with other networks or with neighbouring countries, while the industry is controlled by foreign firms, and no one cares to redress the situation.

See also

06/11/2010 SYRIA
Syrian government to step up internet censorship
This is the first law regulating online activities and enables the police access to editorial offices of Internet sites and to arrest journalists who violate censorship rules. One of the main sources of information in the nation it has so far enjoyed a limited freedom with respect to newspapers and television stations that instead undergo a strict state control.

UAE government releases workers’ rights booklet
Titled ‘The Worker: Rights and Duties’, the booklet is available in six languages. This is first time that the UAE recognises rights for foreign workers, at least if they are legal residents of the country.

Dubai skyscrapers: monument to workers' exploitation

Human Rights Watch has drawn attention to abuse of migrant workers' rights in the Arab Emirates. In September a new law declared deportation for those who go on strike.

29/11/2012 EGYPT
Blitz of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists: Sharia is the main source of law
Art. 2 of the new constitution voted in record time, it subordinates the law to the exact dictates of the dictates of the Koran. The House voted despite the boycott of the liberal parties, the Coptic Orthodox Church and other realities of civil society. The session was attended by only 85 members out of 100.

Weekend shifted in Dubai to be like international markets

The decision, which came into force on 1 September, could also be motivated by the fact that the majority of residents are non Muslim. But official data is lacking about this country with a frenetic growth pace, which is fast becoming the commercial hub of the entire Arab world.

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