more on HDF and the Sudanese delegation

Sudanese delegation

The Sudanese delegation

Well the Sudanese delegation repeated several times the need to remove the software export restrictions ban that is put on the Sudan. You see, there is software that, if given to someone who lives in the Sudan, is punishable by the law in the US because there is an embargo on some countries that are considered ‘terrorist’ or somehow violators of human rights. It is software that mostly has to do with encryption and security.

In the resolutions at the end of the HDF conference in Cairo, the Sudanese delegration reiterated that we need to put the removal of this ban as part of the conference recommendations of actions to be taken. This final outcome by the way goes to the Arab League.

I was amused and so I raised my hand and said the following: “While I do support a lifting of the ban, it is not something that really prevents the Sudanese from accomplishing what they want in terms of e-education since that software has to do with encryption etc. Nevertheless,” I added, “if we will put that, then perhaps another resolution should be that we need to address Arab countries and tell them they needed to stop censorship and lift the bans on many websites that are filtered and blocked. Why should we ask others to give us things they don’t want to give us, whereas we are oppressing our own people and censoring them? see all the examples of the censorship that we have including among the countries represented here at this conference. ” [and of course I was talking about Saudi Arabia – but there are also others such as Syria, Tunisia etc.].

Silence. It was funny because there was absolute awkward silence.  I don’t think many of the attendees really understood what those two issues were not because they are stupid, but because this whole entire “internet-thing” is new to many and they are not yet well-informed about its politics.

The ‘women side’ of the Saudi delegation:

saudi women

worst places to be bloggers

Worst countries to be a blogger in: CPJ announced its worst ten countries for bloggers… and guess how many are in the Middle East?

Relying on a mix of detentions, regulations, and intimidation, authorities in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Egypt have emerged as the leading online oppressors in the Middle East and North Africa. link

Nice. Congrats Middle East, you broke a record. Again.

on wikileaks

Wikileaks is a place for whistle-blowers of all nationalities and walks of life may go and post their information anonymously. Here is what they say of themselves:

Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis. Our primary interests are in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we expect to be of assistance to peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact..

They are true to their word. They succeeded in raising the ire of Swiss Banks by publishing internal documents that show that they deal with money laundering. The banks filed suite to shut down the website in the US, and a court ruled in the banks’ favour. However, there is an appeal process and it remains to be seen what will transpire.

report: net censorship increases around the world

The BBC reports that the Open Net Initiative at Harvard University in the US has just released a report about internet censorship across the globe. It claims that net censorship has increased and that the problem about that is that net filtering always happens in the dark. There is no way one can find what is being filtered or what is being censored. Evidence of this censorship was found in the following countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma/Myanmar, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

In particular, the report conducted research in the MENA region and it states:

filteringmap.gifONI conducted in-country testing for Internet filtering in sixteen countries in the North Africa and Middle East region. .. eight of these countries broadly filter online content: Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Another four—Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, and Morocco—carry out selective filtering of a smaller number of Web sites. ONI found no evidence of consistent technical filtering used to deny access to online content in Algiers, Egypt, Iraq, or Israel. [link]