Arab Governments Attack Web Sites
Saudi Arabia: Threats against the Web site Modern Discussion
Egypt: Blocking masreyat.org
5 march 2006
Cairo, 5 March 2006 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information(HRinfo)announced today its concern and condemnation of attacks against freedom of expression committed by Arab governments by blocking Web sites calling for freedom of thought and expression.
In less than a week, the Egyptian Web site www.masreyat.org has been blocked in Egypt. In addition, the famous Web site of Modern Discussion, www.rezgar.com, has been facing threats of being sued by a Saudi businessman. The Saudi businessman has threatened to sue three Web sites, Modern Discussion, Elaph, and Dar Alnadwa, under claims that these Web sites write in an unacceptable manner on Muslims.
The threats come at a time when these Web sites are actually blocked in several countries. The Modern Discussion Web site, however, is the most blocked Web site, as it is blocked in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Tunisia. This is because the Web site hosts the writings of many Arab writers and journalists who have found in it a space for freedom of expression, especially in defence of secularism, women's rights, campaigning against capital punishment, and defending other journalists and writers.
"Most Arab governments largely oppress freedom of press and expression," HRinfo Program Coordinator, Sally Sami, said. "Now that the Internet has provided a venue for liberties, Arab governments are seeking to restrict its space by blocking Web sites and terrorising Internet writers and users," she added.
It is worth noting that the Tunisian government, for example, was the fastest to block a Web site. The Tunisian government blocked www.yezzi.org 18 hours after it was launched. It should be noted that the Tunisian government is infamous for blocking many human rights and political Websites.
In Egypt, security authorities have recently been blocking Web sites calling for reform, such as the Save Egypt Front, and Masreyat, in addition to its continuous blocking of the Web sites of the Al-Shaab newspaper and the Al-Amal (labour) party.
The Saudi government, on the other hand, is not satisfied with daily blocking of nearly 200 Web sites. Religious scholars and businessmen affiliated to the Saudi government are starting to launch campaigns against the freedom to use the Internet and the freedom of information exchange.
Religious scholars have issued a fatwa prohibiting women from using the Internet without the presence of a mahram (a close relative they are prohibited to marry). This was followed by a call from Saudi businessmen to sue Web sites that call for freedom of thought and secularism, such as the aforementioned Web sites.
"Amongst the Arab governments violating freedom of expression and exchange of information, we find that the most aggressive are those of Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt," Sami said. "Such behaviour breaches the right of citizens to acquire information and news and deprives them of a variety of sources of information," she added.
And please tell me that the part on banning women from surfing the net on their own is a sad sad joke please :(