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The Internet: New Battle between Arab Governments and Freedom of Expression
Press Conference to Announce HRinfo’s New Report
On The Permanent and Failing Attempts to Terrorize Internet Users

Cairo – 10 December 2006

Hundreds of websites are blocked in the Arab World while thousands, with similar contents remain unblocked. This shows the Arab governments’ hostility towards the right to freedom of expression and exchange of information. For this purpose, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) issued a new report entitled “Implacable Adversaries: Arab Governments and the Internet”. The report will be announced in a press conference on Wednesday 13 December 2006.

HRinfo’s report handles the policies and tactics adopted by 18 Arab countries in dealing with the internet. Arab countries, seemingly, agreed that the internet is an adversary that must be crushed. Thus, they blocked websites and arrested online activists. Yet, the internet did not yield to such pressures as the number of websites supporting freedom of expression increased.

The report includes a chapter on Arabic blogs and active bloggers in the Arab world. They act as a strong advocators of not only freedom to use the internet but also freedom of expression and human rights in general.

“Arab government’s war on the Internet is merely part of their war on freedom of expression. Here we do not stand impartial. We advocate freedom of expression and thus we are strong defenders of the internet,” HRinfo Executive Director, Gamal Eid said.

The report assures the fact that Tunisia is the leading Arab country with regards to restricting the use of internet. Saudi Arabia and Syria are also practicing the same restrictions, including blocking and arresting internet users. Libya also committed similar violations against online writers. The Libyan journalist, Dhaif Al-Ghazaly was the first online writer to be killed because of his writings. His fingers were severed, sending a threatening message to all anti-corruption writers.

Egypt seeks to hide its hostility towards the internet to seem like a supporter instead. However, state harassments against bloggers who support democracy, the torture of blogger Mohamed Al-Sharkawy, and the detention of the secular blogger Kareem Amer, reveal the permanent restrictions practiced by the state on freedom of expression.

Even states that relatively respect freedom to use the internet, such as Jordan and the UAE, have regressed in this regard. On the other hand, some countries, such as Lebanon and Morocco, still respect the freedom to use the internet.

“Implacable Adversaries: Arab Governments and the Internet” is the second report on freedom to use the internet in the Arab World to be published by HRinfo. The report has 190 pages, written, prepared and edited by Journalist Ihab Al-Zalaky, Legal Researcher Gamal Eid, and researcher and HRinfo’s program coordinator, Sally Sami. It has 19 chapters: 18 chapters on 18 Arab counties and a chapter on Arab blogs. That is in addition to a brief abstract on the Arab region in general.

The first HRinfo report on the freedom to use the internet in the Arab world titled “Internet in the Arab World: New Space of Repression” was issued in mid-2004.

The report will be announced in a press conference on Wednesday 13 December 2006, at 12:00 p.m., at Egyptian Press Syndicate. The Arab Affairs Committee and Training and Follow-up Committee of the press Syndicate will participate in the prospected conference.

Arabic and English copies of the report will be available and the full report will be posted on HRinfo’s website, Reports section:

The conference will be delivered in both Arabic and English

For more information, please contact:
– Ihab Al-Zalaky (main researcher)
Mobile: +20123510033

– Gamal Eid (HRinfo Executive Director)
Tel-Fax: 5249905
Mobile: +20101936884

– Sally Sami (Program Coordinator)
Mobile: +20 105390095