Civil society voices its concern about Internet Human Rights during the Arab IGF  

Despite the fact that the civil society was not highly represented at the second edition of the Arab Internet Governance Forum held in Algiers during the period of 1-3 October 2013 under the theme “Partners for Development”, a group of civic actors managed to make their voice heard through setting forth their concerns in an open letter mainly addressed to governments and policy makers in the region.

The letter, which was signed by activists, technologists, and civil society organisations concerned with Internet freedom and information society, has a main message derived from A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace stating that: “We will create a civilisation of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.” It also provides some recommendations on issues that include privacy and surveillance, freedom of speech, policy, transparency, right to access and liberating content and enriching Arabic content on the Internet.

Mohamad Najem, who is a Lebanese activist, participant in IGMENA’s Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme and one of Hivos’ fellows for the Arab IGF, has put forward the letter during the openness and content session. During his intervention, Najem shed the light on how the Internet could be differently perceived; the Internet as a child that must be disciplined versus the Internet as a tool for development. He further noted that the Arab governments violate human rights while monitoring and censoring Internet users and concluded by demanding the right to privacy and data protection and the Arab governments to be transparent on the legislation and procedures vis-à-vis online freedoms.