Arab Internet Users are Caught in a Terrible Web

(Beirut Daily Star) William Fisher - Governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa are cracking down on the Internet. A study of 11 countries carried out by the Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRINFO) titled, "The Internet in the Arab World: A New Space of Repression?" finds many of the area's estimated 14 million Internet users facing shutdowns of Web sites, the closing of Internet cafes, and prosecution for a variety of crimes, real or imagined. The study charges that "Arab governments typically use the protection of Islamic values and public morals to justify banning Web sites of human rights or political opposition groups." Some states arrest Internet users for surfing Web sites of opposition groups. The most active censorship is found in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. In 2004, Saudi Arabia banned and filtered some 400,000 Web pages to "protect Islamic values and culture." The Saudi government has blocked several Shiite and Islamic Web sites that offer interpretations different from the official Wahhabi line. It has also banned international Web sites like Yahoo and American Online.

2004-12-10 00:00:00

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