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The Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI), organized a symposium on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 entitled “pornography websites between rejection and support”. The parliamentary Mohamed Khalil Quetta, Mr. Nizar Ghurab, the lawyer who has filed a case to block the porn websites, and Mr. Ashraf Baroudi the Judge in the Court of Appeal of Alexandria, have participated in the symposium. Mr. Abdul Jalil Elcharnoubi, a journalist and manager of Ikhwan online website, Mr. Ahmed Gharbeya the technical expert, the blogger and Journalist Mr. Ahmed Naji, along with Mr. Amr Moussa, specialized in the Internet technologies, were all present in the symposium conducted at the headquarter of ANHRI.

The seminar was held on the background of the decision of the Administrative Judiciary Court in May 12, 2009, to compel the Ministry of Communications, of blocking the pornographic websites in Egypt. The decision raised many different reactions that reflect clear differences in views. During the symposium these differences emerged clear in the comments especially those on defining the nature of what is to be named as “Pornographic websites”.

At the outset, the parliamentarian Mohamed Khalil Quetta, talked referring to his notification at the People’s assembly on blocking the porn websites, As he considers that they are one of the reasons for the high divorce rate in Egypt and the Arab world. He also said that the content of these websites is totally incompatible with the customs and traditions of our society and the Islamic religion. Moreover, Quetta confirmed that it is a necessity to block these websites to keep the youth, the children and the society safe.

For his part, Mr. Nizar Ghorab ststed that those websites would cause damage to the moral values in the society, and that the Islamic religion does not allow things that would corrupt the society; a bid to defend the interests of the society and himself as a part of this country, Ghorab felt the need to block these websites, which have negative effects on the behavior of the individual. Mr. Nizar also claimed that one reason for the abandonment of husbands for their wives is the pornographic websites, pointing out that what is presented by these sites would also damage and prejudice to the higher interests of the State and to the National Social Security.

As for the legal point of view on this issue Mr. Ashraf Baroudi noted that the case reflects only a personal view, not the opinion of the whole community, adding that our society should be mature enough to distinguish the good from the bad. He also stressed on the need for review on this case and answer a few questions such as: whether this is a legal or moral crime against the audience, If it is moral, how should it be addressed? Where applicable the criminal law is in such a case? Mr. Baroudi also confirmed that freedom requires responsibility.

On the other hand, Mr. Abdul Jalil explained that the idea of blocking the websites, whether sexual or political or sectarian website means that the State has decided to bury its head in the sand. It appears that the State has decided to raise the banner of morality and virtue, by blocking pornographic websites, while the same State broadcasts pornographic songs and video clips on state-owned TV channels.

Acharnobi called upon transferring the viewer /citizen from being passive to play an active role and participate actively to what is happening.

For his part, Mr. Ahmed Gharbya expressed his concern about Mr. Nizar’s notes on what he considers as “damage of the State and to the National Social Security”. And talked about censorship which is considered by some people as a procedural Idea and being defended and justified by those people, stressing that creating a foothold for censorship and control had been against the benefits of different communities all over the history. Especially the communities that desire to develop and move forward. Gharbya pointed out that the person who browses the internet, does this based on his own will, and can make so many procedures and steps to finally reach the website he/she wants. This is different that the situation with radio or television, which imposes contents on the audience that he/she may not desire to watch or hear. He also emphasized on the rejection of the idea of guardianship on the Internet users, whether practiced by a committee or individuals, advising those who fear for their children of those websites to use the “filtered” internet service. Declaring his rejection to the idea of the total control imposed on every one without discrimination.

From his part, Mr. Ahmed Naji said that what he read in the case filed by Mr.Nizar is not realistic, and the person who filed it does not have a solid definition for “pornographic websites”. Pointing out that there is many Arab websites had been classified as pornographic, just because they contained books or Poetry that include some sexual words.

Nagy wondered: Are these the kinds of websites will be blocked also or not? He added that from his point of view, he does not see the issue as a conflict between the government and some religious streams that want to impose restrictions. But the issue here is that there is a group of people see themselves as guardians on the community and understand more than others.

The Executive Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights, Gamal Eid, said that the decision to block a website must be in the hands of the judiciary and not the management; so that the decision maker has some kind of familiarity with what we to be or should not be blocked.

You can see the statement issued by ANHRI after the decision on this link:
http://www.anhri.net/en/reports/2009/pr0513.shtml