Internet Legislation in the MENA Region  

In collaboration with the Social Media Exchange (SMEX), IGMENA initiated a mapping project, “Internet Legislation in the MENA Region”, as part of IGMENA’s goal of improving legislation on Internet policies. The study identifies the main legal instruments related to Internet rights in seven countries in the region: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia. The review encompasses topics relevant to Internet Governance (IG), including privacy, cybercrime, freedom of expression, access to information, censorship, e-commerce, copyright, intellectual property rights, and surveillance. The legal instruments examined in the project include national constitutions, penal codes, publication laws, and telecommunications and media laws. Some international instruments were also examined in order to make comparisons and evaluate compliance with international standards.
The recent disclosure of electronic surveillance and data collection programmes has shown even more convincingly the need for establishing and expanding Internet regulations and engaging in multilateral discussions on IG and related policies. Some of the countries included in the study have new laws or amendments that have been added in recent years. Many of these laws hinder freedom of expression and access to information, putting Internet users at risk of prosecution and detention for expressing dissenting opinions. These laws affect digital rights directly through specific mention of technology in penal codes and media laws, as well as indirectly in antiterrorism and anti-cybercrime laws. It is often the case that the new laws are formulated without input from neither technical experts, nor the private sector, nor civil society, and the laws are rapidly pushed through without first being released as a draft open for feedback and debate. As a result, some activists are challenging detentions and the passage of bad laws, as well as proactively advocating for better laws related to privacy, data protection, censorship, surveillance, freedom of speech, and Internet infrastructure. As their campaigns evolve, however, activists are identifying a lack of readily available resources—including access to the laws themselves—which is affecting their ability to expose weaknesses as they design strategies to secure and protect digital rights. In addition to raising awareness about restrictive laws and regulations, it is also critical to understand and share positive and protective provisions guaranteed by law, which could assist activists and netizens in advocating for a human rights oriented Internet landscape.
These challenges to protecting human rights in the Internet environment make it necessary to bring clarity to the existing legal instruments and expose the gaps where laws are lacking and protection is compromised. The Internet Legislation in the MENA Region project will equip civil actors with tools to influence Internet policy and legislative developments within their countries and throughout the MENA region.
This mapping project is the first phase within a broader plan to compare existing legislation on IG, identify faults and loopholes, and advance trends, patterns, and recommendations for the MENA region.

Click here to download the Digital Rights Legislation Data