Arab cyberactivism faces 'unprecedented attack'

Jan 23, 2014 by Musa Hattar
Egyptian anti-government bloggers work on their laptops from Cairo's Tahrir Square on February 10, 2011

Cyberactivists from the Arab world said Thursday they are facing "an unprecedented attack" from regimes in their countries, three years after the start of Internet-fuelled uprisings in the region.

"Today there is an unprecedented attack against activists in general and cyberactivists in particular," said Hisham al-Miraat, advocacy director at the Global Voices, an international network of bloggers, translators and citizen journalists.

Miraat was speaking at the end of four-day meeting in the Jordanian capital to discuss the challenges they face, including surveillance and censorship.

"Regimes and their supporters realised after the start of the Arab Spring that the Internet is threat to them. A lot of efforts are being made to introduce oppressive laws, impose censorship and restrict freedom online."

Miraat cited software developer Bassel Safadi, who was jailed in Syria in 2012, and Alaa Abdel Fattah, currently in detention in Egypt for allegedly taking part in a violent and illegal protest in November.

"They have been silenced. Not because they committed a crime, but because their existence is dangerous to these regimes," Miraat.

Bloggers and activists from across the Middle East and North Africa met at the Fourth Arab Bloggers Summit to "debate and develop new strategies to deal with the rising challenges," organisers said in a statement.

They also discussed ways to boost cyberactivism, digital security, as well as combat censorship and surveillance.

"Challenges now are more difficult and different," said Mohammad al-Gohary, an Egyptian blogger.

"Arab governments know now that cyberactivists can create change, so now there is more . We have to be prepared to face these challenges."

Gohary and Leila Nachawtai, a media coordinator, hinted at divisions among the activists.

"Three years ago, we had clearer and common objectives" of bringing freedom and democracy to the region. "Now the focus is on domestic problems," Nachawtai told AFP.

"This summit came to fight divisions among. We have one goal, to fight dictatorships for the sake of freedoms, particularly freedom of expression. Bloggers are part of society, and the society faces a lot of pressures, but I am optimistic."

Gohary agreed, saying "Internet activists were more organised and had a clearer vision before the Arab Spring."

Many in the region maintain that social media helped keep up the momentum of the protests that began in Tunisia in late 2010, toppling dictators there and in Egypt and Libya, and continue to shake the region.

"Freedoms have dangerously retreated following the beginning of the Arab revolts," Moroccan rapper and activist Muaz Bhagwat told AFP.

Described as "the spiteful" on Facebook and YouTube, Bhagwat said he was jailed twice in 2012 and 2013 because wrote a song "against the regime."

A statement by the organisers has said "the dire state of the region—and the increasingly central role that the Internet and social media are playing in shaping it—has added greater urgency to the summit."

"Dictatorships now know they can silence an important voice by controlling cyberactivists," Syrian blogger Marcell Chehwaro told AFP.

"At the beginning of the Arab Spring, we thought that we would restore our freedom of expression. We were wrong."

Explore further: Arab bloggers aim to boost cyberactivism

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Arab bloggers aim to boost cyberactivism

Jan 20, 2014

Arab bloggers on Monday discussed ways to boost cyberactivism at a meeting in the Jordanian capital, faced with new challenges three years after the start of Internet-fuelled revolts in their region.

Facebook says 56 million 'like' it in Arab world

Oct 01, 2013

Facebook announced Tuesday that it has 56 million active users in the Middle East and North Africa, where activists used the social media network to organise Arab Spring uprisings.

Google fears web crackdown after Arab uprisings

Jun 27, 2011

Google chairman Eric Schmidt on Monday warned that the ongoing Arab uprisings could lead to an upsurge in internet censorship and an increased risk of arrest for colleagues working in restive nations.

Recommended for you

Facebook dressed down over 'real names' policy

Sep 17, 2014

Facebook says it temporarily restored hundreds of deleted profiles of self-described drag queens and others, but declined to change a policy requiring account holders to use their real names rather than drag names such as ...

Yelp to pay US fine for child privacy violation

Sep 17, 2014

Online ratings operator Yelp agreed to pay $450,000 to settle US charges that it illegally collected data on children, in violation of privacy laws, officials said Wednesday.

User comments : 0