Cairo 21 December 2009
ANHRI stated that the internet has a snowball effect on the process of democracy in the Arab world. This new force cannot be stopped by government’s actions of censorship, blocking the internet and arresting and even torturing internet users. In the Arab world, where the most repressive regimes lie, the internet has been a tool used to bring democracy and free expression to the region.
This role of the internet is discussed in ANHRI’s new report entitled One social Network, with a Rebellious Message. The report will be announced on Wednesday, 23rd of December, 2009. The report looks into the freedom of internet usage in 20 Arab countries. Also, the report examines four tools (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and You Tube) that the Arab internet users, especially young ones, use to fight for their right of free expression and expose corruption and repression in the Arab world.
In addition, the report reveals that the government-sponsored repression against internet users in the Arab world. Many violations have been committed against internet users; this includes kidnapping, arresting, torturing internet users using the Emergency Law like in Egypt and Syria. In some countries, like Saudi Arabia, religious authorities have issued statements banning some websites that the governments were not able to block.
The report states that the number of internet users has reached 58 million in the Arab world. However, out of these 58 million users, only internet users in Lebanon, Algeria and Somalia have freedom in using the internet. This relative freedom in Lebanon and Somalia is mainly due to the widespread of the tapping phenomenon in the former and the government being too occupied in what seem to be a civil in the latter.
In general, in the last three years, the level of repression and harassment against internet users has increased with the increase in the number of users. Even countries, like Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, who were known to allow freedom of internet usage have started to show a repressive attitude towards internet users.
Countries, like Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and most of all Syria, continue to block websites. However, Egypt has stopped the policy of blocking websites five years ago and now directs its repression with full force against bloggers and internet users. Egypt has become the most repressive country to internet users in the Arab world.
The 235 pages report is the third in a series of reports prepared by ANHRI on the freedom of internet usage in the Arab world since 2004. The first report, The Internet in the Arab World…A New Place for Repression, published in 2004, covered 12 Arab countries. ANHRI published its second report in 2006 under the title: An Unyielding Opponent: The Internet and the Arab governments. This third report, in 19 chapters, covers all Arab countries except Djibouti and the Union of the Comoros for the lack of information on internet usage in these countries. Hence, the report covers 20 Arab countries and four tools used by internet users.
Also, the report includes statistics and information about the telecommunication and internet sector in the Arab world conducted by ANHRI’s team of researchers. For example, the report provides the numbers of internet users, Facebook users and the number of blogs in the Arab world. In addition, the report reveals the most repressive country on internet users and the country that has the highest censorship on the internet.
The report will be announced in a press conference in the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate on Wednesday on the 23rd of December, 2009 with the participation of the Arab committee in the Syndicate. Copies of the report, in Arabic and English, will be distributed during the press conference. Also, there is an online copy of the report on ANHRI’s website: http://www.anhri.net/en/reports