Hangout- With IGMENA  

Live debate: Terrorism, State Security and Online Freedom of Expression for Cyberactivists in the MENA Region

Terrorism, State Security and Online Freedom of Expression for Cyberactivists in the MENA Region

Date: Thursday 23 July 2015 
Time: 15:00 – 16:00 CET 
Topic: Terrorism, State Security and Online Freedom of Expression for Cyberactivists in the MENA Region
Language: English
Platform: Google Hangouts 
  • Ahlam Abou Jadalah, .jo ccTLD manager: Jordan
  • Ahmed Saeed, independent activist, Public Policy analyst and software engineer: Yemen  
  • Marwen Dhmayed, IT engineering student at Telecom Paris Tech, France: Tunisia
  • Rim Hayat, Journalist/ editor and reporter  National School of Journalism and Information Sciences: Algeria

Governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations have an important role and responsibility in the development of the Information Society as the primary entities responsible for the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of internet end-users. Governments in the Arab world should play a central role in ensuring open access to the internet by guaranteeing internet freedom and securing the rule of law online. An open and free Internet is a key means by which individuals can exercise the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly.
However, recent events have unsettled the state security environment in the MENA region.Ongoing terrorists attacks, armed conflict, political upheaval and ethnic cleansing have re-opened the discussion on the impact of state security policies and practices on online freedoms and rights of bloggers, online journalists, and cyber activists.The conversation will bring together experts working on a range of Internet and free expression issues from Tunisia, Yemen Algeria and Jordan to discuss the restrictions and limitations on online freedom of expression in the MENA region.
The debate will focus on recent illegitimate restrictions of human rights including the criminalisation of online expression,blocking and manipulation of internet content, wrong full conviction of cyber activists, and abuse of terrorism and state security laws and policies to violate digital lights. The participants will share experiences, needs and priorities in their different countries.
In the Hangout, we will look at how the internet can provide new avenues and tools for journalists, bloggers and online activists to publish news in closed societies. When journalists and civil society activists were banned from reporting on the political crisis in the MENA region they relied on information from citizen journalists reporting via mobile phones and the Internet. Many end-users have turned to the Internet where newspapers are heavily censored by the state. Mobile Internet applications are used to report on political issues including live broadcasting of interviews with members of parliament.
How can online journalism meet the needs of citizens and present the positions of civil society actors? In the current environment, can online journalism foster a climate of reform, activate the grassroots, and work towards peace and respect for human rights ?
The next IGMENA Hangouts will address the question of how civil society and governments can foster the continued evolution of an internet ecosystem that supports human creativity, expression and knowledge sharing while protecting interests such as privacy and security.
  • Can you tell us more about the current social and legal status of online freedom of expression in your countries, do most citizens in your countries enjoy equal online freedoms ?
  • Do governments in your country take account of the rights and interests of all members of society to protect these rights and interests ?
  • Do your state legislation include the protection of online freedom in the constitution, can you give us examples, is there any legal framework in the constitution that guarantee online freedom for citizens in your countries ?
  • Can you think of the policies that can provide new avenues for blogging, journalism and news publication in your society. How can those platform so local NGOs provide new tools for citizens to express themselves, engage in debate and mobilise themselves against government HR violations ?
  • What are the online intermediaries or spaces in your country that can provide new areas for online human rights activism for bloggers, online journalists and cyber-dissident and engage in a constructive debate with your government ?  

IGMENA organizes monthly online debates on Internet Governance (IG), addressing topics covering local, regional, and global issues.

The main objective of these debates is to facilitate the discussion on IG issues specific to the MENA region. It encourages more interaction among IG and policy stakeholders to share their contribution on the current developments in the field. The debates aim to meet the specific needs of Arab netizens and to put forward timely and relevant topics that will encourage participants to exchange points of views, articulate challenges and concerns, and define shared concepts. This series of live debates will also serve as a tool to keep the IGMENA community growing, connected, and active about current IG issues.

Each session has a main speaker who presents the debate topic, accompanied by several other contributors. The discussion is moderated and facilitated by IGMENA, providing space for viewers to share their comments, post their contributions, and raise their questions to the speakers to feed the debate.  

The language used during the online debates is either Arabic or English. The debates are open to the general public. The audience includes the IGMENA community, networks and organisations active in the IG field from the Arab region, and anyone from the international audience who would like to participate and contribute.

One week before each live debate, an update with information about the forthcoming debate on Google Hangouts is published on the IGMENA website and shared with the IGMENA network. Those who are interested will be able to join the debate and share their comments until the end of the live session. The video is available on the IGMENA website after the live broadcast (via the IGMENA Youtube channel), open for new comments as well as suggestions on new topics. In addition, a summary of the main points addressed during the online debate is published on the IGMENA website.

This series of debates is part of IGMENA’s advocacy for freedom of expression and freedom of information in the Arab region through raising awareness among various stakeholders and engaging them in the Internet Governance process.
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