The picture is not entirely obscure, as the acute violations of freedom of expression and freedom of the press and in particular citizen journalism and social networks, as it is evidence of the ongoing repression in the Arab world, it is also evidence that the defenders of democracy and freedom of expression did not surrender to this repression. As the severe repression is usually a reaction to strong oppositions.
The Arab Revolutions freed the Arab citizen from fear, from the Atlantic to the Gulf, and the Internet was one of the most important tools to demand change, especially among the Arab youth.
No one can forget the role of social networks in the revolutionary movement in the Arab region, and before that, the role of blogs. The number of Internet users in the Arab world has nearly multiplied three times during seven years, where the number was about 58 million users in 2009, while it is now approaching 157 million users
The number of Facebook users in the Arab world, has multiplied more than six times during the same period, while the number was about 12 million in 2009, it became roughly 78 million users.
Which means that half the Arab Internet users are posting comments and publishing news on Facebook?
Therefore, it was natural for governments and Arab regimes, not only to support each other in the repression of opinion makers and critics, but also to stand up against the means that holds these views and criticisms, and while most of the traditional media, “TV Newspapers, radio,” under strict government control, the online social networks are still more expansive and ready to support and embrace the views that are not desired by Arab governments.
Tunisia was under the rule of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, competing with Saudi Arabia for the title of the most hostile regime to the Internet, and now, despite some difficulties experienced by the democratic path in Tunisia, it is the only Arab government that escaped from the Arab repression farm and became the most respectful in terms of freedom of expression and the freedom to use the Internet.
On the other hand, Kuwait was a model of respect for freedom of the press among all the Gulf states, yet it fell and became one of the most states that violates of freedom of expression on the Internet, and the country that most prosecutes Twitter users specifically.
Lef We Erga’a Tany (Turn around & go back)
It is an Egyptian common colloquial expression that has a lot of meanings, such as “the road is blocked, choose another one”, “the mission is not yet accomplished and should be done”, or “to shout at someone to resume his/her role.”
The last meaning is what we mean by this title. So we ask the Internet to get back to resume its role, as the counterrevolutions and repressive governments haven’t changed yet, and democracy haven’t achieved yet. Thus, the Internet is one of the significant mean to confront repression, and support democracy. It responds to whoever asks for help, particularly the Arab governments are attempting to put a second wave of Arab revolutions down, to expand the circle of suppression, and then to censor the Internet as well as harass its users.
Most of the prisoners of conscience in the Arab world, except Egypt in this period, had been arrested for their posts on the Internet and social networks, whether for a tweet on Twitter, a group or a post on Facebook, or a video on YouTube!!!
For that reason, and the non-stop conflict- seemingly it wouldn’t end soon- we demand the Internet to turn around and go back to resume its role in achieving democracy.
About This Report
This report endeavors to identify the developments or setback that the Internet in the Arab world witnessed during the period from mid-2012 to the beginning of 2015. It is released in continuation of a series of reports issued by ANHRI almost every two years and a half, 30 months, to identify the situation of freedom of Internet and respect for freedom of expression, and the Arab governments’ stances of it.
This report is the fifth since mid-2004. We monitor the situation of Internet in 11 Arab countries, distributed on all over the Arab region, in addition to statistics in connection with all the Arab countries.
The report relies on monitoring and documenting in order to identify the freedom of Internet in countries of the Arab world. 11 countries, where remarkable escalation of the Internet role was noticed and dealing with negatively and positively had been selected.
Numerous tools have been used in this report, like:
– Making use of the reports issued by media organizations and various human rights institutions.
– Browsing websites of information and communications ministries along with ministries related to the Internet in each country.
– Making use of the files of cases that ANHRI working on in Egypt and Arab world.
– Using major search engines like Google & Yahoo, and the accurate and advanced search techniques.
– Receiving Testimonies and information from journalists and specialized activists.
– Using the monitoring and documenting of ANHRI’s Research Department.
Problems we faced:
The process of monitoring and documenting the situation of Internet in each country was not easy. That started by the lack of references and series studies that we can rely on, in addition to all these questions that need answer, like:
1- The magnitude of material that could give credibility to the report?
2- Do we target evaluation or trials for governments, or we endeavor to introduce the reality as its and highlight it?
3- Why these countries were precisely chosen?
4- Do we mainly search for the violations or try to monitor what is happening?
5- Do we have the right to evaluate each country?
Additionally, there were some qualitative problems, like:
1- Lack of credibility concerning statements released by many Arab governmental officials about the magnitude of achievements, and giving wrong numbers such as, “telephone numbers, justices of laws, or networks infrastructure.”
2- Lack of information and accurate statistics regarding the number of Internet users, and their serious inconsistencies.
3- The exaggerated description of the violation by some activists, overlooking some serious attempts to improve the ICT sector.
4- The tacit acceptance that a large segment of Arab citizens have concerning the principle of acceptance blocking and confiscating the dissenting views, and satisfaction with the criminal trials of opinion holders.
Numbers & Statistics:
It was the most difficult part of this report, which is monitoring the numbers and finding estimates and statistics close to the reality, particularly under the inconsistencies and differences among sources. Therefore, we didn’t rely on a certain source, rather we resorted to several comparisons between numbers and estimates of media institutions, specialized ministries in each country, International Telecommunication Union, and definitely our previous reports, in addition to social networking websites and their officials’ statements; like Facebook, Twitter and some smartphones users as well as specialized reports.
We rely on that way since more than ten years, when we started to prepare this series of report. And because our reports and statistics are always correct, we are deemed the most accurate and credible, till proving otherwise.