Darn Retrieved 1 May Many columnists contributed to the op-ed pages of Al-Hayat ever since it has been relaunched in The international page edition generally contains eight pages of political news with marked differences from the front page focus of the Saudi edition. InAl-Hayat ney a Saudi edition based in Riyadh. Other important sections include the features page, the opinion page, an extensive business section 4 pagesa culture and arts page, and a sports section 2 pagesin addition to other rotating sections on youth, as well as a miscellaneous section. It is more critical of the Saudi government than its main rival, Asharq Al-Awsat. The New York Times reported on the allegations the following day, citing the reports in Al Hayat as evidence of strained relations between Hamas and the Syrian government, as a result of the Syrian uprising.
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Note: a previous version of this profile is available at Middle East and North Africa, The zone is part of a strategy designed to increase the number of Internet users from 26 percent to 50 percent. The new Abu Dhabi-based zone aims to employ Arab media professionals in film, broadcast, digital and publishing. WiMAX, for example, was commercially available by end of March in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, while operators in other parts of the region have started testing the service.
Most incumbent telecom companies in North Africa are already in private hands, with exception of Algerie Telecom, the privatization of which has been postponed due to the global economic crisis. Human rights watchdogs and free speech advocacy groups continue to criticize the media restrictions and repressive legal regimes, and over the past few years, a great number of bloggers and cyber-dissidents have been jailed. Such laws have often been used to suppress reporting of corruption or scrutiny of government actions.
In a list created by the Committee to Protect Journalists of the ten worst countries to be a blogger, four such countries Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia were from the region. Rifts between the censors and local and regional advocates of freedom of speech have intensified, and more voices continue to express concern about media regulations in the region. The head of the center was later criticized by Qatar officials as well as some journalists and was accused of endorsing pornography, 12 which is a sensitive topic in many Middle East and North African societies.
While it is common for Internet groups and online activists in the region to organize online campaigns to condemn online censorship and arrests of bloggers and online writers, other online campaigns which call for and support social censorship - mostly online pornography - have emerged in the past few years. For instance, an Arabic Web site called Ehjeb Arabic for the verb "to block" is becoming increasingly popular, particularly among users of Web forums. Also, some Internet users in North African countries where there is no social filtering have organized online campaigns to demand filtering of sexually explicit content.
For example, a judge in Egypt filed a lawsuit requesting the banning of 51 Web sites considered offensive.
The court rejected the lawsuit in December and emphasized support for freedom of expression as long as the Web sites do not harm local beliefs or public order. In May however, a Cairo court ruled in favor of an Egyptian lawyer and ordered the Egyptian government to ban access to pornographic Web sites because they are deemed offensive to the values of religion and society. In Tunisia however, a blogger challenged the Web filtering regime in the country by filing a legal suit against the Tunisian Internet Agency ATI for censoring the social networking site Facebook after it was briefly blocked in August The court dismissed the case in November without providing any explanation.
These examples and cases illustrate how the fight over access control is taking different shapes and forms, and also indicate that different players will continue the debate and challenge each other. These measures include laws and regulations, technical filtering, physical restrictions, surveillance and monitoring, and harassments and arrests. Press and Publication Laws, Penal Codes, Emergency Laws, and Anti-terrorism Bills Many countries in the region use restrictive press laws to regulate online publishing and traditional journalism.
For example, censorship of online media and print journalism in Bahrain is exerted using the Press Law. Rights groups say that the uninterrupted application of the emergency law since has led to the emergence of a parallel legal system unchecked by ordinary judicial bodies. The law includes penalties of ten years in prison and a fine for Web site operators who advocate or support terrorism; three years and fine for financial fraud or invasion of privacy; and five years and a fine for those guilty of distributing pornography or other materials that violate public law, religious values and social standards of the kingdom.
Accomplices of the guilty parties and even those who are proven to have only intended to engage in unlawful IT acts can receive up to half of maximum punishments. Net service which contravenes any applicable Law of the Republic of Yemen. Once the data is provided, clients will receive a text message on their cell phones and a pin number that they can use to access the Internet.
No closed rooms or curtains that might obstruct view of the monitors are allowed. Test results prove that the governments and Internet service providers ISPs censor content deemed politically sensitive; critical of governments, leaders or ruling families; morally offensive; or in violation of public ethics and order.
Testing also revealed that political filtering continues to be the common denominator across the region. Many states in the Middle East and North Africa prevent their citizens from accessing political content or have blocked such content in the past. To one degree or another, the Gulf countries, as well as Sudan, Tunisia, Gaza, and Yemen, censor pornography, nudity, gay and lesbian content, escort and dating services, and sites displaying provocative attire.
Some of these countries also filter Web sites related to alcohol, gambling, and drugs. Generally, the countries that implement political or social filtering also target to various degrees proxies and circumvention tools to prevent users from bypassing filters.
Some of these countries also block online translation services and privacy tools apparently because they also can be used to access blocked content. Regional Trends in Access Control Internet censorship in the Middle East and North Africa is on the rise, and the scope and depth of filtering are increasing.
Previous ONI tests revealed that political filtering was limited in some countries, but results indicate that political censorship is targeting more content and is becoming more consistent. For example, previous tests found that Yemen temporarily blocked political Web sites in the run-up to the presidential elections, and Bahrain did the same ahead of parliamentary elections. However, testing revealed that filtering in these two countries has been consistently extended to include several Web sites run by opposition groups or news Web sites and forums which espouse oppositional political views.
In the meantime, countries that have been filtering political content continue to add more Web sites to their political blacklists.
For example, filtering in Syria was expanded to include popular sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon, as well as more Web sites affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood Kurdish opposition groups. Another example is Tunisia, which added more political and oppositional content as well as other apolitical sites such as the OpenNet Initiative and Global Voices Online.
Social filtering is also increasing and is catching up with the continuously growing social Web. Most of the Arab countries were found to have started to block Arabic-language explicit content that was previously accessible.
Interestingly, filtering of Arabic-language explicit Web content in the Middle East and North Africa is usually not as fast as that of other languages. Increases in filtering are the norm in the Middle East and North Africa, and unblocking is the exception. Another regional trend is that more Arab countries are introducing regulations to make Web publishing subject to press and publication laws and requiring local Web sites to register with the authorities before they can go live.
Another example is Saudi Arabia, which announced in May plans to enact legislation for newspapers and Internet Web sites that will require Saudi-based Web sites to get official licenses from a special agency under the purview of the Ministry of Information. Bahrain already has a similar system that requires local Web sites to register with the Ministry of Information.
Among the new trends in controlling access is the increase in incidents of hacking of opposition and dissident Web sites and blogs. Such incidents have been reported in Tunisia and Yemen. On the other hand, sectarian cyber war among different religious groups in the region, namely Shiite and Sunni groups, has occurred in the past few years. The cyber attacks managed to deface the Web sites of significant Shiite and Sunni organizations and individuals and in some cases the attackers managed to remove the content of some of these sites.
Additionally, Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese Web sites run by Hizbullah have been targets of attacks and hacking, especially during wars and conflicts. Also, while Western companies build ICT infrastructure necessary for development in the region, other Western companies provide the censors with technologies and data used to filter the Internet. The censors in the region attempt to control political content using technical filtering, laws and regulations, surveillance and monitoring, physical restrictions, and extra-legal harassment and arrests.
Filtering of content deemed offensive for religious, moral, and cultural reasons is pervasive in many countries and is growing. Though many governments acknowledge social filtering, most continue to disguise their political filtering practices by attempting to confuse users with different error messages.
The absence of technical filtering in some countries in the region by no means indicates free online environments in those countries; surveillance and monitoring practices and extra-legal harassment from security agencies create a climate of fear used to silence online dissidents. Many ISPs block popular politically neutral online services such as online translation services and privacy tools fearing that they can be used to bypass the filtering regimes.
The censors also overblock Web sites and services such as social networking Web sites and photo and video sharing Web sites because of the potential for content considered objectionable. More users in the Middle East and North Africa are using the Internet for political campaigning and social activism; however, states continue to introduce more restrictive legal, technical and monitoring measures, amid growing local and regional calls to ease restrictions and remove barriers to the free flow of information.
Author: Helmi Noman 1. Chris V. Regional Overviews.
Middle East Newspapers
Note: a previous version of this profile is available at Middle East and North Africa, The zone is part of a strategy designed to increase the number of Internet users from 26 percent to 50 percent. The new Abu Dhabi-based zone aims to employ Arab media professionals in film, broadcast, digital and publishing. WiMAX, for example, was commercially available by end of March in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, while operators in other parts of the region have started testing the service. Most incumbent telecom companies in North Africa are already in private hands, with exception of Algerie Telecom, the privatization of which has been postponed due to the global economic crisis. Human rights watchdogs and free speech advocacy groups continue to criticize the media restrictions and repressive legal regimes, and over the past few years, a great number of bloggers and cyber-dissidents have been jailed. Such laws have often been used to suppress reporting of corruption or scrutiny of government actions.
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