Global Digital Download - Middle East & North Africa News

The Global Digital Download is a weekly publication that aggregates resources on Internet freedom, highlighting trends in digital and social media that intersect with freedom of expression, policy, privacy, censorship and new technologies. The GDD includes information about relevant events, news, and research. To find past articles and research, search the archive database.

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  • (Access Blog, Wednesday, October 1, 2014)

    There are rumors circulating that Tunisia’s three telecommunications operators, Tunisie Telecom, Orange, and Ooredoo, might enter into an agreement limiting customers’ access to voice over IP (VoIP) services. If implemented, this agreement would dramatically impact users’ freedom of expression online. 

  • (Global Voices, Wednesday, October 1, 2014)

    Four Bahrainis who have joined the militant group ISIS have called on other Bahrainis to take up arms and join the fight against their ruling “tyrants”, the Sunni Khalifa royal family and the country's majority Shia population, in a YouTube video that surfaced on social media and recently went viral.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Tuesday, September 30, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders condemns the verdict handed down two days ago by a Riyadh appeal court upholding the sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and 1,000 lashes passed on the cyber-activist Raef Badawi.

  • (ARTICLE 19, Monday, September 29, 2014)
    ARTICLE 19 has reviewed the new Moroccan Draft Law No 31.13 on the Right of Access to Information and finds that it fails to adequately recognise the right to information and threatens free expression. The Draft Law No. 31.13 on the Right of Access to Information was adopted by the Moroccan Cabinet on 31 July 2014.  The new draft is significantly weaker than previous versions.
  • (Reuters, Sunday, September 21, 2014)

    Iran's hardline judiciary has given the government one month to block WhatsApp and other popular instant messaging services, as pressure mounts on reformist President Hassan Rouhani to scale back his social and political liberalisation.

  • (Al Arabiya News, Saturday, September 20, 2014)

    Egypt’s interior ministry has denied recent reports suggesting it had hired a U.S.-based security firm to extensively monitor Internet activity on social media.

  • (VPN Creative, Friday, September 19, 2014)

    The Iranian government has announced in a report that of the 23.5 million youth using the web in the country, 69.3 percent of them are relying on circumvention tools such as VPNs and proxies that provide access to the global web.

  • (Al Arabiya News, Thursday, September 18, 2014)

    The Egyptian government has hired the sister company of a U.S.-based security firm for extensive monitoring of internet communication on various social platforms such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the state-owned Al Ahram newspaper reported on its website Thursday, citing a BuzzFeed News report.

  • (Amnesty International, Thursday, September 18, 2014)

    A controversial new cybercrimes law that criminalizes the spreading of “false news” on the internet poses a serious threat to freedom of expression in Qatar, said Amnesty International. 

  • (BuzzFeed News, Wednesday, September 17, 2014)

    Egyptians’ online communications are now being monitored by the sister company of an American cybersecurity firm, giving the Egyptian government an unprecedented ability to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others.

  • (Committee to Protect Journalists, Wednesday, September 17, 2014)

    The broad language of the Anti-Cybercrime Law could be used to restrict press freedom and impose prison sentences on journalists inside the country, according to news reports.

  • (Arabian Business, Wednesday, September 17, 2014)
    Qatar’s new cybercrime law has been criticised as deliberately ambiguous and a crackdown on freedom of speech. Under the new law, jail terms can be imposed on those who publish content deemed harmful to the country’s “social values” or “general order”.
  • (Global Voices, Tuesday, September 16, 2014)

    In a report conducted by Iran's Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Iranian government announced that of 23.5 million youth using the Internet, 69.3 percent of them are using circumvention technology such as proxies and VPNs — virtual private networks that provide access to the “global Internet”.

  • (IFEX, Monday, September 15, 2014)

    An arrest warrant was issued to novelist Rania al-Saad on 27 August 2014 as a result of a report filed against her by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs accusing her of "insulting Saudi Arabia" on Twitter, said the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). 

  • (Global Voices, Wednesday, September 10, 2014)

    Lebanon's Minister of Telecommunications has ordered Internet service providers to block six pornographic websites, according to a post by blogger Ralph Aoun who shared a leaked copy of the communiqué on his blog on Sept. 1, 2014. There is limited precedent for this type of web filtering in Lebanon, apart from the blocking of a local online gambling site last January.

  • (Global Voices, Tuesday, September 9, 2014)

    Under recent changes to the Iranian government's already-stringent media regulatory regime, all online newspapers are now required to register with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance through a site called “e-rasaneh” (“e-newspaper” in Farsi), which falls under the jurisdiction of the nation's Press Supervisory Board. 

  • (The Times of Israel, Monday, September 8, 2014)

    More than two-thirds of young Iranian Internet users are using illegal software to reach websites that are officially banned, government research cited by media said Monday. The study, by the research center of the ministry of sport and young people, was publicized just one day after President Hassan Rouhani said existing Internet controls were counterproductive.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Friday, September 5, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders deplores last week’s arrest of well-known Kuwaiti human rights activist and blogger Mohammed Al-Ajmi in connection with a tweet and calls for the withdrawal of the blasphemy charges brought against him. Better known by the blog name of Abo3asam, he was released the day before yesterday pending trial. “Prosecuting this netizen over a tweet is absurd,” Reporters Without Borders assistant research director Virginie Dangles said. “The regime has again resumed its political of cracking down on outspoken dissidents.”

  • (Global Voices, Friday, September 5, 2014)

    Iran held the first annual Persian ICT week conference in Tehran's Ijlas center between August 30-31, 2014. The two day conference was a cooperative effort between Iran's ICT Guild Organization and the Arab ICT Organization. The theme of the conference was entitled, “Internet for Economic Growth,” and panels were held over the two days discussing youth using social media, the ICT industry post-sanctions in Iran, and the role of government in Internet development. 

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Thursday, September 4, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders condemns the verdict handed down two days ago by a Riyadh appeal court upholding the sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and 1,000 lashes passed on the cyber-activist Raef Badawi. Badawi is the co-founder of the website Liberal Saudi Network, an online discussion forum aimed at encouraging political and social debate in Saudi Arabia.

  • (The New York Times, Tuesday, September 2, 2014)

    Taghizadeh did something he never thought he would — at least, not in Iran. He took a screen shot and shared the image with his followers on Twitter. “They were all excited,” Mr. Taghizadeh, an Internet entrepreneur, said. “Finally.”Last week, the government unexpectedly granted 3G and 4G licenses to the Islamic republic’s two principal mobile operators, which are rushing to roll out high-speed connections to their tens of millions of subscribers.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Tuesday, September 2, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders is outraged by yesterday’s appeal court decision to uphold a two-year jail sentence for 47-year-old computer scientist Youcef Ould Dada for posting a video showing three policemen committing a robbery during inter-communal clashes in Ghardaïa province. Held since 27 March, Dada received the sentence from a court in the city of Ghardaïa (600 km south of Algiers) on 10 June on a charge of “publishing photos and videos that affect national interest.” 

  • (International Business Times, Monday, September 1, 2014)

    Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has refuted claims from a prominent cleric that high-speed mobile internet is immoral and un-Islamic, urging religious leaders not to "close the gates to the world". Introducing 3G internet to Iran would go against "religion, morality and humanity", Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi said in a recent statement.

  • (Voice of America, Saturday, August 30, 2014)

    One year after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani assumed office, the regime in Tehran is apparently stepping up surveillance of its citizens’ online and telephone activities, threatening some with punishment for “seditious” activities.

  • (The Guardian, Friday, August 29, 2014)

    Months of research into Iranian networks uncovered at least 16,000 systems controlled by Iran outside of its borders.

  • (Social Media Exchange, Tuesday, August 26, 2014)

    Following the national laws in United Arab Emirates, TRA had published new regulations following the principles of Islam and the social and moral welfare of the UAE, as mentioned in the new regulations.

  • (Global Voices, Monday, August 25, 2014)

    The frequency of power outages has risen dramatically in Egypt over the past few days, causing frustration among Egyptians, with some areas experiencing blackouts of about 20 hours. Contradicting statements have been issued by government officials regarding the cause of this increase.

  • (IFEX, Monday, August 25, 2014)

    Kuwait's new telecommunications law gives the government sweeping powers to block content, deny access to the Internet, and revoke licenses without giving reasons. The government should amend the law to limit the restrictions on telecommunication providers and users to no more than what international human rights law permits.

  • (Global Voices, Friday, August 22, 2014)

    “The Rouhani government never promised to open things that were filtered in the past,” Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Mahmoud Vaezi told reporters at an Aug. 21 press conference. Vaezi's statement comes after more than a year of discussions and debates within Iran's media and government on unfiltering popular social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

  • (The Guardian, Thursday, August 21, 2014)

    After the clampdown by Twitter and YouTube on Islamic State (Isis) propaganda, the social media war has spread to open-source social network Diaspora – where the content is impossible to remove. Isis accounts are posting propaganda images, video and text via Diaspora sites, and the site’s developers who once promised, in a now-deleted blogpost, that it offered “a brighter future for all of us” are powerless to stop them. But they are concerned at legal implications for other users who are connected to the network.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Thursday, August 21, 2014)

    Alaa Abd El Fattah is currently serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for spurious accusations made in connection with his longstanding and influential activism. The Egyptian blogger and activist, who was sentenced in June, has faced years of harassment and arrests from each successive Egyptian government for his work.

  • (Global Voices Advocacy, Wednesday, August 20, 2014)

    Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah has entered an open-ended hunger strike until he is released from prison, his family said in a statement posted on Facebook yesterday.

  • (IFEX, Monday, August 18, 2014)

    The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expressed concern over violations of the right of privacy as new evidence emerges of the systematic surveillance practices used by the government of Bahrain.

  • (Telegraph, Sunday, August 17, 2014)

    Dozens of Twitter accounts linked to Islamic State (IS) jihadists have been closed down by the site’s administrators in the last week after they were used to threaten the United States and post a string of grisly images.

  • (Global Voices, Saturday, August 16, 2014)

    Last week, Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance announced that all news websites that do not obtain government-issued licenses will be blocked nationwide. Hassan Mehrabi, the Ministry's director of local press regulations declared that all news websites in the future must obtain licenses from the Ministry's press supervisory board. Further details about the new policy appeared in a report covered by the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA). The announcement was made on “Journalist's Day,” a vaguely-defined national day to recognize the work of journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, with 65 journalists and netizens in prison, Iran is among the top five jailers of those working in the media sector.

  • (ValueWalk, Wednesday, August 13, 2014)

    At the time of the outing, technical difficulties in Turkey were blamed, but inside the NSA a joke circulated that the backup plan to blame Israel if they were caught. The breach of Syrian internet infrastructure was in fact the handiwork of the NSA’s Tailored Access Office (TAO), Snowden said in the interview. On a secret operation to plant spy apparatus in the router of a “major Internet service provider in Syria,” the NSA instead shut down the Internet for four days.

  • (Global Voices, Tuesday, August 12, 2014)

    Tor, a popular online anonymity tool used by many Iranians to bypass Internet censorship, was blocked from late July until the beginning of August. The block prevented 75 percent of the network's estimated 40,000 daily users in Iran from connecting to Tor.

  • (Global Voices Advocacy, Monday, August 11, 2014)

    Leaked internal documents allegedly belonging to UK-based surveillance software company Gamma International suggest that Bahrain's government has used the technology to spy on activists, politicians and members of a government commission investigating human rights abuses.

  • (Committee to Protect Journalists, Thursday, August 7, 2014)

    The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today's conviction of a police officer in the death of Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti and calls on Iranian authorities to disclose details of the investigation and trial. The police officer was given three years in jail, two years in exile, and 74 lashes for assaulting the blogger and insulting him, according to reports. Beheshti was arrested on October 30, 2012, and died in Evin Prison the next month.

  • (Committee to Protect Journalists, Tuesday, August 5, 2014)

    CPJ is concerned for the welfare of critical Omani blogger Muawiyah Alrawahi, who disappeared last month after being summoned by intelligence officials, according to human rights groups. A photo appeared on Twitter in recent days showing Alrawahi at the psychiatric department of Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, with his legs shackled, according to the London-based Monitor of Human Rights in Oman.

  • (Medium, Monday, August 4, 2014)

    It’s hard to shake away the utterly depressing feeling that comes with news coverage these days. IDF and Hamas are at it again, a vicious cycle of violence, but this time it feels much more intense. While war rages on the ground in Gaza and across Israeli skies, there’s an all-out information war unraveling in social networked spaces.

  • (The Intercept, Monday, August 4, 2014)

    The U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel, providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors. But top secret documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed substantial new light on how the U.S. and its partners directly enable Israel’s military assaults – such as the one on Gaza.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Wednesday, July 30, 2014)
    Reporters Without Borders, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), Freedom House, Human Rights First, Just Foreign Policy and Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) call for the release of the internationally-known Bahraini photographer Ahmed Humaidan, who is to receive the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award “in absentia” in Washington, DC this evening. He has been held since December 29, 2012 in Bahrain.
    Humaidan was sentenced on March 26, 2014 to ten years in prison for supposedly participating in an attack on a police station in Sitra on April 8, 2012. A court is due to rule on his appeal on August 25.
  • (Global Voices Advocacy, Tuesday, July 29, 2014)

    A leaked copy of Tunisia's new cybercrime draft law shows signs that the country's major achievements in the field of Internet freedom may soon come undone. It is unclear whether the text, leaked on July 23, represents a final draft. It is similarly unclear whether the National Constituent Assembly will have sufficient time to debate or adopt the law, as fresh legislative elections are due to be held on October 26. The bill has not been submitted to the Assembly yet, but it has provoked many a raised eyebrow among Tunisian netizens.

  • (Index on Censorship, Tuesday, July 29, 2014)

    In March, Pakistani columnist Raza Rumi was injured in a gun attack that killed his driver. Weeks later, Hamid Mir, star journalist of Geo TV, Pakistan’s biggest TV station, was shot six times. Luckily, both survived, and managed to avoid becoming part of a bleak statistic: Since 1992, 30 journalists have been murdered in Pakistan; 28 with impunity. Censorship in Pakistan used to be straightforward, explained Khan. Certain topics were simply off limits. Today, the situation is more complicated and more confusing. Threats to journalists and press freedom take many different shapes, and come from many different sources, including the government, extremists like the Taliban, the intelligence service ISI and powerful media owners.

  • (IFEX, Monday, July 28, 2014)

    Ten women who work in the media are currently behind bars in the Islamic Republic. The arrest on 22 July of two journalists and a photographer, including the Tehran correspondent of the Washington Post and his Iranian wife, brings to 65 the number of news providers behind bars in Iran. They include 10 women, of whom three are foreign nationals, making Iran the world's leading jailer of female journalists and netizens.

  • (Global Investigate Journalism Network, Monday, July 28, 2014)

     When is training journalists considered a crime? When you're in Egypt today. It's been just over a year since an Egyptian court convicted 43 people from 5 NGOs for acting as unregistered foreign agents to foster unrest -- a charge they strongly deny. Among the groups are Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Freedom House, and a GIJN member, theInternational Center for Journalists, which was running workshops in Egypt to train reporters. In testimony before the U.S. Congress last week, ICFJ Vice President Patrick Butler, one of those sentenced to prison, talked about the case, with special attention to the damage it has inflicted on Egyptian journalists Yehia Ghanem and Islam Shafiq. Full transcript in link.

  • (Citizen Lab, Thursday, July 24, 2014)

    In June 2014, we published a report documenting the results of our network measurement tests that found evidence of 20 URLs that were blocked in Iraq following the ongoing conflict with the jihadist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). Our results showed that a number of prominent websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Skype and YouTube, were blocked on three ISPs tested. These tests results followed earlier reports of filtering in Iraq and of certain regions of the country which had been entirely disconnected from the Internet. The same research also found that websites affiliated with or supportive of ISIS and other militant groups in Iraq were accessible from Iraq. Since the publication of that report, we have continued to conduct network measurement tests to identify instances of Internet filtering of websites representative of local, regional and international media, local oppositional portals, and websites containing Jihadi materials or supportive of ISIS and other militant groups in Iraq.

  • (Global Voices, Wednesday, July 23, 2014)

    Social media strategy has played a role in the Gaza conflict since 2009 when Hamas used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms to narrate, document and condemn the attacks. Likewise, the Israeli Defense Forces has coordinated campaigns to appeal to the public as well as to gain the attention of media outlets. “In terms of communicating our message, the future is in new media”, Defense Forces spokesman Avi Benayahu said in February 2009. “The IDF has moved online to win hearts and minds.”

  • (Global Voices Advocacy, Monday, July 21, 2014)

    On July 13, Iran’s official state news agency reported that eight people had been sentenced to a combined term of 127 years in prison for their activities on Facebook. The eight youths reportedly were charged with “acting against national security, spreading propaganda against the establishment, insulting the sacred, and insulting the heads of the Islamic Republic.” The Iranian judiciary has not revealed the identities of those sentenced, or the particulars of this offensive activity. Iranian activists both in and outside the country seem to know almost nothing more about the case.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Friday, July 18, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrests of two Omani bloggers and activists, Noah Saad and Muawiyah Al-Rawahi, on 12 July for reporting human rights violations in Oman.

  • (Global Voices Advocacy, Tuesday, July 15, 2014)

    In Saudi Arabia, the crackdown against online activists has risen to extremely worrying levels in recent months. Human rights defenders face threats and harassment, smear campaigns in the media, arbitrary detention, illegal imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment, and fabricated judicial proceedings. The Gulf Center for Human Rights is working to raise awareness about the following recent arbitrary legal measures taken against online activists in Saudi Arabia.

  • (Al-Monitor, Monday, July 14, 2014)

    Eight Facebook activists in Iran were sentenced to a total of 127 years in prison, according to the administration’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

  • (Voice of America, Monday, July 14, 2014)

    Syrians found themselves without Internet access this weekend, according to a report by an Internet intelligence firm. In a string of tweets, the company, Renesys, reported problems began Friday with “routing instability and increase in latency.” On Saturday, the firm reported that the main Internet connection between Turkey Syria went down, “taking down the Internet for Aleppo and northern Syria.”

  • (Times of Israel, Sunday, July 13, 2014)

    A new global initiative that aims to restore privacy for Internet users is making its Israeli debut. The new Respect Network, organizers promise, will enable users to prevent the distribution of their personal information to all manner of Internet marketers — and to be compensated for use of that data if they choose to share it

  • (Arabian Business, Thursday, July 10, 2014)

    Saudi Arabia plans to introduce classes dedicated to teaching students about social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, in the new academic year, according to local media. The lessons would be included within the computing and information technology syllabus and teach students about using, designing and managing websites and social networks.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Wednesday, July 9, 2014)

    A year after blocking access to 263 websites, Jordan’s Media Commission has blocked another nine news and information websites on the grounds that they failed to obtain the required licence. They include 7iber, a site that promotes free speech and media freedom, which had changed its URL after being blocked a year ago. The blocking is based on the Press and Publication Law, as amended in 2012. Article 49 says that any site that publishing “news, investigations, articles, and commentary related to the Kingdom’s internal or external affairs must obtain a licence from the Press and Publication Department"

  • (Global Voices Advocacy, Monday, July 7, 2014)

    On Monday, the Jordanian Media Commission blocked, the alternate domain we began using last year after the Jordanian government blocked, along with roughly 200 other websites focused on news and politics. Despite the ban, or perhaps in part because of it, 7iber went through some exciting changes and developments. While we’ve always sought to inform, inspire, and engage communities to foster a more open society, this unexpected turn prompted us to expand our research on internet governance and digital rights. We organised workshops on journalism ethics and standards as part of our media monitoring project “Ghirbal“. We took on censorship in its different forms with pieces like this infographic on legal boundaries of freedom of expression and this interactive feature on activists on trial before the State Security Court. We learned a lot.

  • (Global Voices, Friday, July 4, 2014)

    The Bahrain Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of yet another netizen, who reportedly faces accusations of “inciting hatred against the regime.” The satirist mirco-blogger, nicknamed Takrooz, was arrested at the Bahrain International Airport, while on his way back from Thailand, said the ministry in a statement on June 18, 2014, without disclosing his name.

  • (Global Voices, Friday, July 4, 2014)

    We have all heard about the Egyptian Ministry of Interior's tender to purchase programs and applications in order to monitor social networking websites and blogs and to survey public opinion. As a matter of fact, even if we disregard the above bid, a significant technological progress has been achieved in analyzing written texts – translation software and search engines are best proofs of the above. Accordingly, technology to monitor the Internet and analyse on-line content has become available to the public, as well as security agencies, marketing companies and the press alike.

  • (Jadaliyya, Tuesday, July 1, 2014)

    Yesterday the Jordanian Media Commission blocked access to, the alternate domain we have been using for the past year after the Jordanian government first blocked along with around two hundred other websites based on the amended Press and Publication Law.

  • (The Register, Tuesday, July 1, 2014)

    The Register has obtained a list of the websites which are still blocked by the Iraqi government despite its decision to lift partial and total internet blockades around the country. Although the Ministry of Communications appears to have gone back on its decision to restrict access to Facebook and Twitter, ISPs have been told to enforce a strict ban on a number of websites.

  • (Human Rights Watch, Friday, June 27, 2014)

    Saudi Arabia’s government should clarify whether it is infecting and monitoring mobile phones with surveillance malware, Human Rights Watch said today. Saudi officials should also say whether and how they intend to protect the rights of those targeted to privacy and free expression.

  • (Bloomberg, Tuesday, June 24, 2014)

    Iraq is responding as you might expect to Islamic extremists who are threatening to break the country apart. When Iraqis recently began to experience limits on Web access — first, with blocks on social media, and then, network outages — thousands flocked to FireChat, a smartphone app that lets users in close proximity communicate freely without an Internet connection.

  • (The National UAE, Monday, June 23, 2014)

    Internet users in the Middle East are more willing to compromise online security for greater convenience than almost anywhere else in the world, a survey has found.

  • (Mashable, Monday, June 23, 2014)

    In Iran, fun and festive videos sometimes gets you arrested. Just a few weeks after arresting, and later releasing, six people for starring in a lip-synched version of Pharrell William's "Happy," Iran reportedly arrested two actors who participated in a video in support of the country's World cup team on Monday.

  • (The Guardian, Monday, June 23, 2014)

    The extremist jihadist group leading the insurgency against the Iraqi government is using apps, social media and even a feature-length movie to intimidate enemies, recruit new followers and spread its message. And its rivals – including foreign governments – are struggling to keep up.

  • (The Guardian, Friday, June 20, 2014)

    Several employees of an Iranian technology news website, including bloggers, have been given long jail terms for alleged links to the BBC. In an apparent blow to the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, which is trying to improve ties with the west, including Britain, Iran's judiciary handed down various sentences of up to 11 years to staff at Narenji.

  • (Ahram Online, Thursday, June 19, 2014)

    Several Egyptian human rights groups have brought a court case against a recent government decision to introduce a new security system designed to monitor social networking sites.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Wednesday, June 18, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders condemns the lack of progress for freedom of information and the unacceptable conditions in which journalists and netizens are still detained a year after the moderate conservative Hassan Rouhani’s election as Iran’s president on 14 June 2013.

  • (Global Voices Advocacy, Monday, June 16, 2014)

    A leaked document from Iraq's Ministry of Telecommunications shows that the government has decided that the best solution to fight false and embarrassing online news is by doing what Mubarak did three and half years ago in Egypt, kill the Internet. Multiple local journalists and experts have confirmed the veracity of the document.

  • (The Guardian Liberty Voice, Sunday, June 15, 2014)

    On Friday, the government of Iraq censored access to Internet social media sites throughout the country, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and Viber. On Sunday, the Iraqi Ministry of Communications plans to shut down access in Iraq to the Internet entirely, ostensibly to repair optical cable across the Turkish border. Western media and international free speech rights groups such as Reporters Without Borders have been strangely silent on these authoritarian actions of the Iraqi Government that deprive millions of people, as well as journalists operating in Iraq, critical avenues of communication. At this moment, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled the violence in their country. Many are living in tent cities erected in haste by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Iraqi Kurdistan and elsewhere. Social media and Internet communication is something Iraqis need more of, not less.

  • (Huffington Post, Thursday, June 12, 2014)

    An average of 70 percent of people living in six Arab countries said in a recently released study that they're in favor of censoring entertainment programs. Northwestern University in Qatar, in partnership with the Doha Film Institute, interviewed more than 6,000 citizens and expatriates in Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates about their media consumption and attitudes toward entertainment. An average of seven in 10 respondents said they believe that violent and romantic content should be more heavily regulated and that "some scenes should be deleted, or whole programs banned, if some people find them offensive."

  • (Index on Censorship, Tuesday, June 10, 2014)

    A few months after the adoption of a progressive new constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression and the right to privacy, reported plans by Egyptian authorities for indiscriminate mass surveillance of social media in Egypt have alarmed rights advocates and many within the country’s internet community. The proposed surveillance plan has also sparked fears that internet activists may be the next targets of the military-backed government’s widening crackdown on dissent.

  • (IFEX, Wednesday, June 4, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders condemns – yet again – arrests and heavy sentences handed down against numerous journalists and netizens. On 27 May 2014, 12 information activists in several cities were sentenced by the regime's revolutionary courts to a total of 135 years in prison for social-media activities. On 28 May 2014, journalist Saba Azarpeyk was arrested. Her family does not know the charges against her or where she is being held. A reporter for the monthly Tejarat-e-Farda and Etemad, a daily paper, Azarpeyk was taken into custody at her office by intelligence ministry agents in civilian clothes. Azarpeyk had been one of the victims of “Black Sunday” a repressive operation in January 2013 against media workers in which 19 journalists were arrested. According to the Khaibaronline website, which is close to conservative hardliners and intelligence agencies, the journalist was “conducting enquiries concerning media of the Revolutionary Front” – a term used to designate conservatives aligned with the Supreme Guide.

  • (Foreign Policy, Wednesday, June 4, 2014)

    The video is infectious. Six twenty-something Iranians dance ecstatically on a rooftop in north Tehran, acting out the lyrics of a song that doesn't pretend to be anything other than a serenade to euphoric silliness. They posted their charmingly low-budget production on YouTube -- just like dozens of other people around the world who've gotten into the act by creating their own visual paeans to Pharrell Williams's international hit "Happy." They weren't exactly conspiratorial about it, either. The original video included detailed credits. It didn't end well for the video's creators. All six of them were arrested by the Iranian secret police. The authorities paraded them on national TV, scolding the women for their allegedly "immoral" behavior. (Needless to say, none of them is wearing a headscarf in the video, and some of the girls even touch the boys -- albeit in an entirely harmless and playful way.) Five of the cast were released after spending the night in the jail, but the director of the video, Sassan Soleimani, was, apparently, only just released on bail last week. (He'd already been detained once before on similar charges of suspect video-making.) So why all the fuss? Do the ayatollahs really find the notion of happiness so subversive? Are the ideas of Pharrell Williams really a threat to the Tehran regime? Why should six people end up enduring imprisonment and national humiliation for dancing to the blandest of songs?

  • (PressTV, Tuesday, June 3, 2014)

    The Egyptian Ministry of Interior has announced that it’s looking for an offer from international companies to carry out surveillance on social networking websites. The decision has raised the alarm for many Egyptians who find the Internet a safe place to express political and social views on sites. Activists have criticized the law that would allow the government to prosecute anyone who spreads anti-government remarks. What makes this shocking to the Egyptian society is that it comes after the huge role social media sites played in the Egyptian revolution in terms of organizing revolutionaries and spreading news that did not make it into the mainstream media. The Egyptian government said the surveillance will be carried out in an effort to catch terrorists. Egypt has witnessed a wave of violence since the removal of former president Mohamed Morsi from power last year. In response, the military-backed interim government has launched a crackdown on Morsi’s supporters especially members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian activists have started a sarcastic online campaign called we are watched, to highlight that they will shrug off the new measures and to show that the Egyptian authorities will not be able to control millions of internet users who want to share their opinions.

  • (Mashable, Tuesday, May 27, 2014)

    A judge in Iran wants Mark Zuckerberg to appear in court to answer privacy complaints related to Facebook-owned companies WhatsApp and Instagram, according to the news agency ISNA. The judge also reportedly ordered the Iranian government to block Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Associated Press. This is the second time in less than a week that an Iranian court has taken measures to restrict Instagram, one of the last Western-based social media services that remains unblocked in the country. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have long been inaccessible there, although some have found workarounds.

  • (Mashable, Saturday, May 24, 2014)

    An Iranian court ordered Iran's Ministry of Telecommunications to block Instagram due to privacy concerns on Friday, according to the "semiofficial" Iranian news agency Mehr. The order stemmed from a private lawsuit, but Iranian netizens reportedly still had access to the photo-sharing app at the time of publication. The Iranian government blocked Instagram for 12 hours on Dec. 29, 2013, and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are also officially inaccessible throughout the nation. This latest censorship comes just a week after the government in Iran blocked access to the hosting platform Google Sites and several Wikipedia pages.

  • (Committee to Protect Journalists, Friday, May 23, 2014)

    Jordan's press freedom climate, once a shining light in the Middle East, has quickly deteriorated as journalists grapple with last year's government ban on nearly 300 news websites. Press freedom groups are documenting a rise in self-censorship and an increase in criminal cases against journalists. Local online news editors and journalists are complaining of economic hardship and psychological pressure.Although most of the banned news sites have since obtained the required government license, some have refused to apply and are still blocked--including the 7iber news site. Lina Ejeilat, co-founder and editor-in-chief of 7iber, told me that it "is plain absurd" to seek government permission for a site that's operated for seven years and has been registered since 2009 with the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

  • (The New York Times, Wednesday, May 21, 2014)

    Six young Iranians who were arrested for posting a YouTube video of themselves dancing on Tehran rooftops to “Happy,” the globally infectious pop song, were released on bail on Wednesday as new details emerged of their possible mistreatment while incarcerated amid an outpouring of sympathy — including a subtly supportive Twitter post from Iran’s president.

  • (Committee to Protect Journalists, Tuesday, May 20, 2014)

    Since the surprise Arab uprisings of 2011, the Saudi government has worked assiduously to ensure it has all the tools of censorship it needs to control dissent. These tools--a combination of special courts, laws, and regulatory authorities--are starting to fire on all cylinders. The result has been a string of arrests and prosecutions in recent months of independent and dissident voices.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Tuesday, May 20, 2014)

    Ali Anouzla, the editor of the Lakome news website’s Arabic-language version, continues to be targeted by the justice system seven months after his conditional release. He should have appeared before an investigating judge today, but the judge’s secretary called Anouzla’s lawyer, Hassan Semlali, on the eve of the hearing to postpone it without setting a new date. She said the hearing could not be held because the judge was taking a vacation. Anouzla was arrested in Rabat on 17 September for posting a link to an article in the Spanish daily El País, which in turn had a link to a video attributed to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

  • (Index on Censorship, Tuesday, May 20, 2014)

    “A model to other peoples seeking reform” said UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon on the successful passing in 2014 of the new Tunisian Constitution. Championing a secular political and legal system following the popular uprisings of 2011, this constitution sought to maintain robust protections of fundamental freedoms. However, the recent creation of the Technical Telecommunication Agency (ATT) threatens to undermine such progress and all in the service of digital surveillance.

  • (Mashable, Friday, May 16, 2014)

    Google and Wikipedia appear to be the latest victims of Iran's online censorship efforts, just two days after the Iranian government repeated — once again — that it's planning to loosen its grip on the Internet. Iran has reportedly blocked access to another Google service, the hosting platform Google Sites, and censored at least two sensitive Wikipedia pages in Farsi in the last couple of days. It's unclear at this point if these blocks are government mandated, but if they are, activists think they would expose the Iranian government's double-sided stance on Internet freedom.

  • (Reuters, Wednesday, May 14, 2014)

    Iran plans to loosen Internet censorship by introducing "smart filtering" which only keeps out sites the Islamic government considers immoral, Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said on Wednesday. Internet use is high in Iran, partly because many young Iranians turn to it to bypass an official ban on Western cultural products, and Tehran occasionally filters popular websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Censorship has eased somewhat since Hassan Rouhani was elected last year on a moderate platform the "smart filter" initiative seemed to reflect.

  • (SMEX, Tuesday, May 13, 2014)

    This year SMEX—with support from the Hivos IGMENA team and researchers in seven countries—aggregated legislation governing digital rights in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, and Iran. We’ve published this research, meant to be a first step in a longer pursuit of identifying patterns of application and eventually influencing legislation, in an open spreadsheet anyone can access and download. Documents referenced include constitutions, penal codes, laws and their amendments, and executive decrees—often in Arabic and English—and can be sorted by country, year, and type of law. We will continue to update the spreadsheet as part of our ongoing research into the legal framework for online media in the region and greatly appreciate additions and corrections.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Monday, May 12, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the long jail terms that three Saudi cyber-activists received this week. Blogger and human rights activist Raef Badawi’s sentence for “insulting Islam” was increased by a Jeddah criminal court on appeal on 7 May to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals (200,000 euros). “The severity of the sentence is shocking,” said Reporters Without Borders research director Lucie Morillon. “We urge the authorities to release Badawi and to quash his conviction, which is emblematic of the way freedom of expression and information are suppressed in Saudi Arabia.

  • (BBC, Thursday, May 8, 2014)

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has become embroiled in an unprecedented row over internet censorship, after he intervened to prevent the blocking of the mobile messaging service WhatsApp.

  • (Christian Science Monitor, Monday, May 5, 2014)

    AQAP and the Yemeni public have left the government far behind in an information war made possible by the spread of the Internet in the Arab world's poorest nation. Authorities can no longer shape the narrative of counterinsurgency, particularly when it comes to controversial drone strikes.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Wednesday, April 30, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the sentence of 15 years in prison followed by a 15-year ban on travelling abroad that a Riyadh court passed on 17 April on Fadhel Al-Manafes, a human rights defender and blogger. He was also fined 100,000 riyals (19,300 euros). Held since 2 October 2011, Manafes was convicted on charges of undermining national security and stability, inciting sedition and sectarian divisions, disloyalty towards the king, publishing articles and communicating with foreign journalists with the aim of harming the state’s image, creating a banned association and inciting protests.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Wednesday, April 30, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the five-year jail sentences that a court passed today on the photographer Hussain Hubail and the cyber-activist Jassim Al-Nuaimi. Seven other activists received similar sentences. “Many Bahraini news providers are getting long jail terms” said Lucie Morillon, head of research and advocacy at Reporters Without Borders. “Far from the international community’s cameras and attention, the authorities are cracking down on freedom of information and its actors. It is time that the persecution and sham trials ended. We again call for the release of all the detained journalists and cyber-activists.”

  • (The Wall Street Journal, Thursday, April 24, 2014)

    Saudi Arabia is planning tighter regulation of video content produced in the country for YouTube after an explosion of news, satire and comedy has made the kingdom one of the biggest per-capita global consumers of Google Inc.'s video platform. Viewers in Saudi Arabia watch three times as much YouTube as their peers in the U.S., according to Google, largely because the traditionally government-backed mass media hasn't produced enough content suited to the country's large population of young people.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wednesday, April 23, 2014)

    Narenji ("Orange") was Iran's top website for gadget news, edited daily by a team of tech bloggers who worked from a cramped office in the country's city of Kerman. The site was targeted at Iran's growing audience of technology enthusiasts. Like Gizmodo or Engadget in the United States, it had a simple but popular formula: mixed reviews of the latest Android and iPhones, summaries of new Persian-language apps and downloads, as well as the latest Internet memes (such as the ever-popular "An Incredible Painted Portrait of Morgan Freeman Drawn with a Finger on the iPad"). But now it’s gone. Narenji's front page is stuck in time as it was on December 3, when the entire Narenji team was rounded up by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and thrown into jail. Frozen, too, are Narenji's sister sites—Nardebaan and Negahbaan—that the start-up was beginning to build from Narenji's earlier success.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wednesday, April 23, 2014)

    Across the Arab world, LGBTQ communities still struggle to gain social recognition, and individuals still face legal penalties for consensual activities. In Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iraq, homosexuality is punishable by death. In countries where homosexuality remains taboo or punishable by law, it makes sense for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and other queer-identifying (LGBTQ) people to explore their sexual identity online. But the Internet is increasingly becoming a risky place for exploration. More and more governments in the region are using digital surveillance to entrap, arrest, detain, and harass individuals who visit LGBTQ websites or chat rooms, or who use social media to protest homophobic laws and social stigmas.

  • (All Voices, Wednesday, April 16, 2014)

    Rami spends many hours every day trying to surf the Internet from his home in the suburbs of Harasta near the capital of Damascus. The 20-something youth, a law student at Damascus University, complains of the “constant interruptions of network service, its slowness and lack of effectiveness.” “The service cut for three consecutive months about a year ago,” Rami said. “When it resumed, we noticed that the signal was much weaker than before, which makes it impossible to access certain sites except at certain hours of the day.” The situation drove him to file a complaint with the local telecommunications office, but, “in vain, because all they did was tell me that the network was running properly, and that the bad signal during certain daylight hours was due only to the pressure of too many users at the same clogging up the network.”

  • (Global Voices, Monday, April 14, 2014)

    Tunisian award-winning collective blog Nawaat has launched its own whistle-blowing platform: Nawaat Leaks. The secure platform was launched in collaboration with GlobaLeaks, an open source and anonymous whistleblowing software.Those wishing to use Nawaat Leaks to leak classified information, will first need to download the online anonymity software Tor. Nawaat co-founder Sami Ben Gharbia explains [ar] the online safety measures taken into consideration to protect the platform's users.In 2011, Tunisia's interim authorities passed decree 41 guaranteeing access to administrative documents. In practice, however, the law is far from being implemented. In a statement published on March 27, Article 19 slammed the authorities’ ineffective implementation of decree 41. ARTICLE 19 “notes concern that existing measures designed to ensure government transparency are not being effectively implemented” the organization said.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Friday, April 11, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the 30-month jail sentence that a Bahraini court passed on the blogger Ali Maaraj on 8 April on charges of "insulting the king" and “improper handling of information technology". RWB condemns these absurd charges and demands his immediate release and the quashing of his sentence. The Bahraini authorities have yet again demonstrated their contempt for freedom of information and their mistrust of publication tools. The police arrested Maaraj at his home on 7 January, seizing his computer. His brother was simultaneously arrested at his workplace. He was released six weeks later.

  • (The Washington Post, Friday, April 11, 2014)

    Iran became a “nation of bloggers” between early 2000 and 2009, as a vibrant, diverse set of online blogs became the platform for expression for thousands of Iranians, ranging from political activists, poets and sports fans to the often-overlooked class of hardline religious conservatives. Those blogs emerged as a space for active, intense, ongoing discussions on everything from politics to poetry. Regardless of whether these blogs played a role in the “Green Movement” demonstrations that followed the fraudulent 2009 election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they helped to redefine Iran’s politics and the nature of public discourse.

  • (Global Voices, Thursday, April 10, 2014)

    In Lebanon, government officials approved a proposal to allow the nation’s security agencies full, unrestricted access to Lebanese people’s elecontric communications data after a reportedly brief and heated debate in a cabinet session last month. This piece of news gained little attention from Lebanese mainstream media, who largely portrayed the measure as just another result of political cleavages within the current government. There has been little discussion of what impact the law may have on users, or the notion that privacy is a human right, not to be waived. In its first clause, Lebanon’s Surveillance Law guarantees the right to privacy across all means of electronic communication — wired and wireless, local and international.

  • (Index on Censorship, Friday, April 4, 2014)
    Three years on from the revolution, Egypt seems tired of turmoil and apathy is mounting. The youth movement, April 6, made the decision to boycott the recent referendum and the idea spread. Although the country’s younger generation makes up a quarter of the population, only a tiny minority turned up to vote. Their absence meant the new constitution was approved by more than 98%. However political activist, Salma Said believes this low attendance was down to a different issue. “The youth didn’t participate because the youth are in jail”, she said via Twitter. Her comment highlights the alarming increase of politically motivated arrests. There is a clear targeting of bloggers, journalists and activists. In Egypt, the price for dissent is high.
  • (Index on Censorship, Wednesday, April 2, 2014)

    Saudi authorities have detained three activists for posting videos on YouTube denouncing the royal family's corruption and complaining about dismal living standards and low wages. 

  • (IFEX, Friday, March 28, 2014)

    Although Lebanon has long been considered to have one of the most open and diverse media environments in a region dominated by dictatorships, it is no stranger to restrictions on free expression. What makes the Lebanese case so unique is that, unlike other Arab countries where government interference is the biggest hurdle standing between a journalist and his freedom to report, the restrictions in Lebanon have their origins in the country's sectarian and political structures. 

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Osama Najjar, a netizen and activist held since 17 March, and voices concern about his state of health, as he was arrested the day after an operation and does not have his medicine with him. No official reason has been given for his arrest and it is still not known where he is being detained.

  • (Al Jazeera, Sunday, March 16, 2014)

    Yousef sat on the navy couch with his arms wrapped tightly around his legs, and rocked back and forth. It's a position he has become all too familiar with over the past year. He turned on his laptop and waited fitfully for Skype to load. "Without Skype I wouldn't be able to be in touch with my family in Aleppo," he said in his living room in Beirut. "Sometimes it doesn't work - you don't want to know what goes through my head. I have lost many friends in this war." Yousef, who requested that only his first name be used because his family is still in Syria, fled Aleppo more than a year ago, leaving behind his family. The city has been the target of a sharp increase in the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian government in recent weeks. These attacks have claimed hundreds of lives and have resulted in a mass exodus of civilians to the Turkish border.

  • (Center for International Media Assistance , Thursday, March 13, 2014)
    During his run for the presidency of Iran, Hassan Rouhani made a bold promise. If he won, he would push for greater Internet freedom in a country where citizens risk imprisonment and torture for what they post online. After Rouhani's victory in June 2013 a wave of optimism swept the Iranian blogosphere. In a post-election speech, he declared, "The age of monologue media is over; media should be interactive . . . in a country whose legitimacy is rooted in its people, then there is no fear from free media." He described social networking as a "welcome phenomenon," a far cry from Tehran's official line. For netizens, his words signaled relief from cyber spies and persecution. Months later, hope for a freer Internet has faded. Attacks against online users are escalating. According to one cyber security expert: "Censorship of the Internet has only gotten worse, but it's more and more clear that Rouhani does not have complete control over this process." 
  • (Index on Censorship, Thursday, March 13, 2014)

    On 3 March 2011 a group of Emirati intellectuals sent a petition to the country’s rulers that politely requested democratic reform and political participation. Authorities have responded by spending the past three years jailing and torturing those who supported the petition. Now citizens are using social media platforms to criticise security services for growing levels of repression with authorities responding in kind by arresting and torturing them. Since punitive legislation governing use of the internet was passed in November 2012 at least six people have been sent to prison for comments made on Twitter. The latest to be convicted are Khalifa Rabeiah and Othman al-Shehhi who were both sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay fines of £81,875 on 10 March for criticising security services on Twitter.

  • (Reuters, Monday, March 10, 2014)

    A Saudi court sentenced a man to 10 years in jail and a 100,000 riyal ($26,700) fine for joining protests against the kingdom's rulers and using Twitter to urge people to do the same, state news agency SPA said on Monday. SPA quoted Justice Ministry spokesman Fahd al-Bakran as saying the unidentified defendant had also retweeted messages against the monarchy, Muslim scholars and security services.

  • (Global Voices, Wednesday, March 5, 2014)

    Detained for the last two years for expressing himself, Jabeur Mejri has been released. The first prisoner of conscience in Tunisia since the events of January 2011 [ouster of former dictator Zeine en Abidin Ben Ali], has been released tonight. Mejri has been in jail since March 2012. He was convicted to seven and half years in prison for publishing content “liable to cause harm to public order and morality”, “insulting others through public communication networks” and “assaulting public morals”.

  • (CircleID, Monday, March 3, 2014)

    On Feb. 7, 2014 Dr. Stephen Crocker, the Chair of the ICANN Board of Directors, wrote to Asia Green IT System (AGIT), a Turkish company which applied for .Islam and .Halal, conveying ICANN's latest position on these two applications. The letter is deeply flawed, and shows how ICANN's handling of the .Islam and .Halal applications is at once an egregious assault on the new gTLD program rules, and a betrayal of whatever trust Muslims around the world might have had in ICANN. ICANN will be well-advised to back track on the ill-considered letter, and get the .Islam and .Halal strings back on the road to delegation.

  • (Access, Monday, March 3, 2014)

    Today, Access kicked off the third installation of our RightsCon conference series in San Francisco, with more than 600 people from 375 organizations and comapnies in attendance, representing 50 countries. One person who was not here is Alaa Abd El Fattah, of Egypt. Alaa joined us at the first RightsCon, in 2011, as a keynote speaker on the relationship - often complex - among technology, activism, and true social justice. When he left RightsCon, he flew straight back to Egypt, to serve an unjust, politically motivated prison sentence.

  • (Small Media, Wednesday, February 26, 2014)

    With a new Iranian fiscal year comes a brand new budget, and with a new budget comes the opportunity to gain an array of fresh insights into Iranian information policy for the year ahead. President Hassan Rouhani submitted the new year’s budgetary plan to the Iranian Parliament on 8 December 2013, allowing Small Media to engage in some closer analysis of the new numbers. In this month’s Infrastructure Report, Small Media presents the findings of its in-depth review into Iran's budgetary plan, sharing a number of new insights into the Rouhani Administration’s ICT policy, and its controversial plans to develop the ‘National Internet’ - the National Information Network (SHOMA).

  • (MIT Technology Review, Tuesday, February 25, 2014)

    Back in October 2011, a group of hackers and net activists called Telecomix leaked the logs showing exactly how Syrian authorities were monitoring and filtering internet traffic within the country. The logs comprised of 600 GB of data representing 750 million requests on the web and showing exactly which requests were allowed and which were denied. Today, Abdelberi Chaabane at Inria in France and a few pals, publish the first detailed analysis of this data, revealing exactly how the traffic was filtered, which IP addresses and websites were blocked and which keywords were targeted for filtering. What their work reveals is unique. These logs provide a snapshot of a real-world censorship ecosystem, the first time this kind of detail has become available from an authoritarian regime.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Thursday, February 20, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for an end to government blocking of the Lakome news website, in effect since 17 October, and the withdrawal of all charges against Ali Anouzla, the editor of the site’s Arabic-language version. “The authorities are clearly stalling, both by not responding to Anouzla’s request for the censorship to be lifted and by repeatedly postponing his appearance before an investigating judge,” said Reporters Without Borders head of research Lucie Morillon. “No one will be fooled by this policy. Morocco manifestly deserves its poor position – 136th out of 180 countries – in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.” Lakome was blocked on 17 October, shortly after Anouzla, who had been held since 17 September, issued a statement saying that he was unable to take responsibility for what was posted on the site while he was in detention and therefore requested its “temporary suspension.” The authorities went far beyond what Anouzla requested because access to both the Arabic and French-language versions of Lakome has been blocked ever since. Anouzla has repeatedly sought the lifting of the blocking since his release on 25 October after five weeks in “preventive detention.”

  • (Index on Censorship, Thursday, February 6, 2014)

    The idea of blogging and social media in Iran was once likely to invoke images of the 2009 Green Movement, where these platforms played a part in regular people standing up to a repressive, conservative regime, calling for reforms and demanding civil liberties. These days, it may be more linked with the country’s political elites, who really seem to have taken to communicating through Twitter and Facebook — sites now blocked for most of the population. But while it was perhaps always expected that tech-savvy, reformist activists would find ways around the social media censorship, it may come as a surprise that some of Iran’s most conservative do the same. A new report by Small Media sheds light on the Arzeshi, a hardline, conservative faction of online activists, devoted to the principles of the 1979 revolution and the supreme leader. The report found that the Arzeshi work around online restrictions, appearing on banned sites. In particular, the report looks at blogs and Google+, and analyses the activity of 75 Arzeshi accounts on Twitter — a site that, bar a technical glitch last September, has been blocked in Iran since 2009.

  • (Global Voices, Tuesday, February 4, 2014)

    Algerian Abdelghani Aloui has been in jail since September 25, 2013. His crime? Sharing images on Facebook that are caricatures of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal. Since his arrest, the 24-year-old blogger has been detained in Serkadji prison of Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, a prison known for hosting terrorists and criminals. A trial has yet to take place for Abdelghani Aloui.

  • (IFEX, Friday, January 31, 2014)

    The imprisonment of Jabeur Mejri over the publication of prophet Muhammad cartoons on his Facebook page is set to come to an end soon, reports Tunisian local media. Mohamed Attia, vice-president of the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) told privately-owned radio station Shems FM that Mejri will soon be released, and that he will travel to Sweden where he has allegedly obtained political asylum. The announcement comes after civil society groups visited Mejri in prison on 21 January. The initiative was led by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and included representatives from the LTDH, the Tunisian Forum for Socio Economic Rights (FTDES) and Mejri's support committee. Mejri has been in prison for nearly two years for posting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page. He was sentenced to a seven-and-a-half year jail term for “publishing material liable to cause harm to public order or good morals”, “insulting others through public communication networks” and “assaulting public morals”.

  • (Global Voices, Friday, January 31, 2014)

    Facebook, among other sites, will come under new scrutiny in Egypt, when a draft “anti-terrorism” law comes into effect. The draft law, submitted by the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry, which in turn would go to the Cabinet for ratification, states that internet sites which instigate terrorism could be censored. This includes popular sites such as Facebook, which have increasingly become a channel among Egyptians to voice dissent.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Thursday, January 30, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders reiterates its condemnation of the arbitrary behaviour of the Bahraini judicial system, which has postponed the trials of several detained news and information providers in the past two weeks. The judicial authorities must abandon all the trumped-up charges they have brought against journalists just because they covered anti-government street protests, the media freedom organization said. Reporters Without Borders also calls on the authorities to systematically order independent investigations whenever torture and mistreatment in detention is alleged. Failure to investigate violates article 12 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. RWB and nine other human rights groups wrote to Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Juan Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, on 15 December asking them to investigate the arrests, detention and torture of three Bahraini journalists.

  • (IFEX, Wednesday, January 22, 2014)

    Last week, Hamas' militant wing the Iz Al Din al Qassam Brigades announced via their website that their primary English-language Twitter account, @alqassamBrigade had been suspended. The group said : “The Qassam Brigades confirmed that they did not violate Twitter's terms of service ever … Twitter still not sending Al Qassam any justifications for the suspension.” When asked by Index why the account was suspended, a spokesperson from Twitter responded: “”We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.” Twitter's decision to suspend the account becomes evermore confusing beyond this first glance. If the goal is to prevent Al Qassam from using Twitter, it's ineffective, as their secondary English-language account as well as a primary Arabic account are both still active- not to mention the ease with which a new account can be created. It's difficult to see what closing the account achieved other than giving a group that, by definition feeds off exclusion from the mainstream, fuel for pariah status.

  • (Index on Censorship, Tuesday, January 21, 2014)

    One hundred and forty characters are all it takes. Twitter users from Marrakech to Manama know—call for political reforms, joke about a sensitive topic, or expose government abuse and you could end up in jail. Following the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, authorities in Libya and Tunisia unblocked hundreds of websites and dismantled the state surveillance apparatus. But overall, internet freedom in the region has only declined in the three years since the Arab Spring as authoritarian leaders continue to crack down on any and all threats to their ever-tenuous legitimacy. As the online world has become a fundamental part of Arab and Iranian societies, leaders are waking up to the “dangers” of social media and placing new restrictions on what can be read or posted online. This shift has been most marked in Bahrain, one of the most digitally-connected countries in the world. After a grassroots opposition group took to the streets to demand democratic reforms, authorities detained dozens of users for Twitter and Facebook posts deemed sympathetic to the cause. Similarly, several prominent activists were jailed on charges of inciting protests, belonging to a terrorist organization, or plotting to overthrow the government through their online activities.

  • (Amnesty International, Saturday, January 11, 2014)

    Mohammad Reza Pourshajari, aged 53, was taken to the medical facility of Ghezal Hesar Prison on 4 January when he was suddenly unable to breathe. He was given an injection, but the medical staff would not tell him what it contained when he asked. The Prosecutor General of Alborz Province, in Karaj, north-west of Tehran, had asked the prison authorities on 6 November 2013 to have Mohammad Reza Pourshajari undergo a medical examination to assess his health requirements. As a result, Mohammad Reza Pourshajari was taken to Imam Khomeini Hospital in Tehran on 25 December for one hour: he was examined by a nurse who was unable to examine his heart, for which he requires specialized care after he suffered two heart attacks for blockage in his arteries. Mohammad Reza Pourshajari’s daughter, Mitra Pourshajari, has told Amnesty International that no diagnostic examination or medical tests were carried out during this check-up to assess her father’s heart condition. Mohammad Reza Pourshajari has been in poor health since at least September 2012 when he suffered the first of two heart attacks. After his second, in February 2013, he was taken to a hospital outside the prison for five days.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Friday, January 10, 2014)

    Shezanne Cassim, the US citizen charged under the UAE's Cybercrime Act and sentenced to a year in prison, has returned home. According to a statement from the US Department of State, Cassim was released and deported after getting credit against his sentence for time served and for "good behavior." Upon returning home to Minnesota, Cassim spoke out against the actions of the UAE's government: "Due to the political situation there, they're scared of democracy. They wanted to send a message to the UAE public, saying, 'Look what we'll do to people who do just a silly YouTube video, so imagine if you do something that's actually critical of the government.' It's a warning message, and we're scapegoats." We are thrilled to hear that Shezanne Cassim is back with his family and doing well and we honor his courage in speaking out.

  • (International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Thursday, January 9, 2014)

    Iranian users are experiencing inconsistent filtering of various Internet and mobile application technologies as Iranian authorities determine their communications policies. On December 26, 2013, the Secretary of Iran’s Working Group to Determine Instances of Criminal Content on the Internet told Fars News Agency that blocking Tango, Viber, WhatsApp, and other mobile communications applications remain on the Working Group’s agenda. Three days later, Iranian users reported that Viber had been blocked in Iran; Instagram and WeChat had been blocked earlier, despite disagreement from Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. These developments have cast serious doubts among users about whether the Rouhani administration may be able to deliver on his promise of access to information.

  • (IFEX, Friday, January 3, 2014)

    The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounces the verdict issued by an Emirati court to imprison two human rights advocates and online activists as a result of using the Internet to peacefully express their opinions and to expose violations committed by the Emirati authorities against detainees. During a hearing held on 25 December 2013, the Abu Dhabi Federal Court sentenced human rights advocate Mohamed Salem Al-Zumer to three years in prison and a fine of 500 Emirati Dirhams (US$160) over accusations of insulting the president and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. The accusations are based on tweets that were posted on Al-Zumer's personal Twitter account, in which he mentioned that the state had paid a private company to set up an army of mercenaries in order to repress freedoms. The rights advocate is also accused of damaging the Emirati state security entity's reputation after saying that detainees are tortured in prisons. The court did, however, acquit him of a charge against him accusing him of being a member of the opposition group, the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah). Al-Zumer was arrested by security forces almost a year earlier on 5 December 2012. Officers confiscated his personal items; his cellular phone and his iPad. Information about him being tortured in his detention period has been circulated.

  • (Mashable, Sunday, December 29, 2013)

    For approximately 12 hours, Instagram became the latest apparent victim of Iran's Internet censorship system commonly known as the "Filternet." The blocking of Instagram was initially reported by Iranian netizens early Sunday, and later confirmed by independent researchers. Instagram appeared to be the latest casualty of Iran's most recent online clampdown — despite promises of more Internet freedom by the new government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Then just a few hours later, the photo-sharing network was unblocked, and Iranian officials denied any wrongdoing.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Sunday, December 29, 2013)

    The uprisings of 2011 gave hope to many for a new era of Internet governance. While Tunisia made concrete steps toward a freer Internet, many governments throughout the region have grappled with finding a balance between instituting the harsh restrictions that helped create Tunisia's uprising and implementing enough control to prevent their own. In 2013, many governments tended toward the former, implementing censorship for the first time or arresting bloggers, creating a deterrent for those who might dare speak their minds. Here are a few of the threats we've tracked this year and the ways in which activists have fought back.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation; Citizen Lab, Monday, December 23, 2013)

    More than two years into the Syrian conflict, the violence continues both on the ground and in the digital realm. Just as human rights investigators and weapons inspectors search for evidence of chemical weapons, EFF, and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab have been collecting, dissecting, and documenting malicious software deployed against the Syrian opposition. Citizen Lab security researchers Morgan Marquis-Boire and John Scott-Railton and EFF Global Policy Analyst Eva Galperin today published their latest technical paper, “Quantum of Surveillance: Familiar Actors and Possible False Flags in Syrian Malware Campaigns.” The report outlines how pro-government attackers have targeted the opposition, as well as NGO workers and journalists, with social engineering and “Remote Access Tools” (RAT).

  • (Global Voices, Monday, December 23, 2013)

    Internet service providers in the Islamic Republic have blocked access to WeChat say reports on several news sites and blogs. WeChat is an application that enables smartphone users to connect to online social networks. While the Iranian president himself, and at least a couple of his ministers use different social media platforms themselves to communicate with followers, Iranian citizens are banned from access to sites like Facebook.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Friday, December 20, 2013)

    Ali Anouzla, the editor of the Arabic-language version of the news website Lakome, is scheduled to appear on 23 December before an investigating judge in Salé (near Rabat) who is responsible for handling terrorism cases. Reporters Without Borders and the Anouzla Support Committee in France call on the authorities to abandon this investigation, to drop all the charges against Anouzla and to stop blocking access to both the Arabic and French-language versions of Lakome. “Prosecuting Anouzla under the anti-terrorism law or even the Press Code would show that the authorities are bent on persecuting a journalist known for being outspoken,” the two organizations said. Anouzla was arrested in Rabat on 17 September for posting a link to an article in the Spanish daily El País, which in turn had a link to a video attributed to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He was freed on 25 October after more than five weeks in “preventive detention” but continues to face a possible sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison on various charges including providing “material assistance” to a terrorist organization and “defending terrorist crimes.”

  • (IFEX, Thursday, December 19, 2013)

    In a region where censorship is the norm, Morocco has always stood out for its nominally free press, and mostly free Internet. But in the past year, that freedom has been repeatedly challenged, most recently when editor Ali Anouzla was imprisoned under terrorism charges for linking to a news article that linked to a YouTube video. Now, the latest threat to face Moroccans is the Code Numérique, a draft bill that would impose additional restrictions on the country's Internet. I interviewed activist Zineb Belmkaddem and the lawyer pseudonymously known as @IbnKafka to get their take on the threats Moroccan Internet users now face.