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ANHRI releases report on Internet usage, censorship and repression in the Arab world

Governments block and censor the Internet, tap the lines of its users and torture many of them, says ANHRI

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo 21 December 2009 - ANHRI has stated that the internet has a snowball effect on the process of democracy in the Arab world. This new force cannot be stopped by governments' 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, which will be released on Wednesday, 23 December 2009, looks into freedom of internet usage in 20 Arab countries. Also, the report examines four tools (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) that Arab internet users, especially young ones, use to fight for their right to free expression and to expose corruption and repression in the Arab world.

In addition, the report reveals government-sponsored repression against internet users in the Arab world. Many violations have been committed against internet users, including kidnappings, arrests and torture of internet users using Emergency Law, such as has taken place in Egypt and Syria. In some countries, like Saudi Arabia, religious authorities have issued statements banning some websites that 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 those 58 million users, only internet users in Lebanon, Algeria and Somalia have freedom in using the internet. The relative freedom in Lebanon and Somalia is mainly due to the widespread use of the tapping phenomenon in the former and the government being too occupied in what seems to be a civil war 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 stopped the policy of blocking websites five years ago and now directs its repressive actions with full force against bloggers and internet users. Egypt has become the most repressive country for internet users in the Arab world.

The 235 pages report is the third in a series prepared by ANHRI on 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 due to a 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 telecommunications and internet sector in the Arab world based on analysis conducted by ANHRI's team of researchers. For example, the report provides the number of internet users, Facebook users and blogs in the Arab world. In addition, the report reveals the most repressive country for internet users and the country that has the highest censorship of the internet.

Click here to view an online copy of the report

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