Internet Legislation Atlas in the MENA region launches Phase II  

Image by Kassem Mounhem
20 November 2014

The Internet Legislation Atlas (ILA) compares national laws and policies influencing digital rights, thus allowing comparison between countries, stimulating advocacy and policy engagement and recognizing best practices.
IGMENA is now entering Phase II of the Internet Legislation Atlas (ILA) in partnership with Article 19. ILA advances Internet rights and freedoms by raising awareness among stakeholders with a view to influencing decision-making processes and playing an active role in safeguarding Internet freedom. ILA will also increase the knowledge of stakeholders to be leaders in promoting rights-based Internet policies in their countries, and to engage in regional and global discussions.

"The internet is a crucial resource for freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of assembly," explains Niels ten Oever, head of digital at Article 19. "To protect these rights online, it is of quintessential importance that the legal frameworks that might protect or hamper these rights are clearly mapped for users to claim their rights, or for users to do effective advocacy to attain these rights."

As the first phase of the Internet Legislation Atlas (ILA) project, HIVOS (via IGMENA) conducted a study coordinated by Social Media Exchange (SMEX) to identify the main legal instruments in relation to Internet rights in seven countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia.
Often the availability of such information is the first challenge; this was accomplished  for the first seven countries in Phase I. Now it is vital to aggregate, analyse and compare more data and publish it in a format that will enable effective advocacy. Article 19 and HIVOS will expand on the outcomes of Phase I to make it more accessible and actionable for civil society and activists, as well as a resource for donors and policymakers.
Next Steps

The first part of Phase II is building a methodology and framework based on international benchmarks, and then opening it up for peer review by international civil society and academics. After that, the partners will collate, analyse, and compare relevant information about digital freedoms, such as laws, jurisprudence and implementation of legislation, with the goals towards making this information and analysis accessible in an interactive online format.
This project will also design workshops with final beneficiaries, researchers, database and website builders and designers at IG meetings. Additionally, ILA will develop tools based on the research for civil society activists to advocate for changes in the legislative environment in line with freedom of expression and information principles. Some of these tools include an interactive database and visualisation design.

"Article 19 is working with Hivos and partners to ensure that users and grassroots organizations are provided with accurate information on the state of the Internet in their country to preserve this global resource," comments ten Oever.