Facts and Figures  

1. Universality and Equality 

Among Arab youth 15 years and younger, 83 percent use the Internet daily. Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East by Christopher Schroeder

The digital platform will see the highest growth in the years to come as a large young, informed and socially engaged population drives consumption of media on Internet and mobile platform. Arab Media Outlook 2011-2015


2. Rights and Social Justice

Twitter has raised the ceiling of our freedoms. Turki al-Hamad, The Guardian 

98% of users agreed or strongly agreed the Internet is essential for their access to knowledge and education.  Global Internet User Survey 2012

Reporters Without Borders listed Bahrain, Iran and Syria among the “state enemies of the Internet” (a list of countries whose governments are involved in active, intrusive surveillance of news providers, resulting in grave violations of freedom of information and human rights). Enemies of the Internet 2013 Report


3. Accessibility

Internet penetration in the Middle East is 40.2% with 90,000,455 Internet users. Internet World Stats

In anticipation of June 14, 2013 national elections in Iran, authorities were already clamping down on access to the Internet, having arbitrarily disqualified most registered presidential and local election candidates. Human Rights Watch, May 2013

Among the laws and regulations used to control Internet access in the MENA region are the press and publication laws, penal codes, emergency laws, anti-terrorism laws, Internet-specific laws, ISPs’ terms and conditions, and telecommunications decrees. Access Controlled, MENA Overview


4. Expression and Association 

Events that previously would not have been reported anywhere – protests in Buraidah and the Eastern Province [Saudi Arabia] – now appear first on Twitter. The Guardian, December 2013

89% agreed or agreed strongly that Internet access allows freedom of expression. Global Internet User Survey 2012

Tunisian activists fear that the creation of the Technical Telecommunication Agency (ATT) will bring back mass surveillance and Internet censorship instead of protecting users’ rights and the cyberspace. Global Voices online, November 2013

The attempts to regulate online speech violate Jordan’s constitutional free expression guarantees. Human Rights Watch, June 2013

The Middle East and North Africa region scored 48.5 on a scale from zero to 100 in which zero represents total respect for media freedom. Syria got one of the highest numbers of journalists and netizens killed in the course of their work in 2012, since they were victims of an information war waged by both the Assad regime and opposition faction. Meanwhile, Yemen was listed among the ten countries that respect media freedom least. Reporters Without Borders’ 2013 World Press Freedom Index


5. Privacy and Data Protection

The representative of Qatar encouraged all member states to vote in favour of the “right to privacy in the digital age.” UN General Assembly GA/SHC/4094, November 2013

International companies have provided technical surveillance and monitoring systems to the governments. Such systems enable national security apparatuses to violate privacy and monitor Internet activities without consent and due diligence. The Quest for an Open Internet in the Middle East and Northern Africa, IGMENA


6. Life, Liberty and Security

In Saudi Arabia, seven Facebook users were jailed in late June for posting information about protests on Facebook and sentenced to between five and ten years in prison. Global Voices Online, July 2013

Iran's Computer Crimes Law was approved by parliament in January 2009. Many believe it has been instrumental in the prosecution and repression of cyber-activists and bloggers. IFEX, December 2013

From 2012 – 2013, bloggers and activists have been threatened, beaten, harassed, and killed in Egypt. Charges varied from blasphemy to insulting the office of the president. Several administrators of Facebook groups were reportedly singled out and shot by snipers during protests. Freedom House

Over the past year, incidents of physical harassment and cyberattacks against bloggers and staff of online news websites have continued in Jordan. Freedom House


7. Diversity

The lack of available information services in the Arab world is probably a result of a combination of scarcity of information and problematic business models. ESCWA Business Model for Digital Arabic content, June 2013

Some countries have initiated efforts to develop Arabic Web content. In this regard, Microsoft is working on translation technology that would make the Arabic language more accessible to Internet users as part of Qatar’s Supreme Council for Information and Communication Technology’s initiative to develop more websites with Arabic content. OpenNet Initiative


8. Network Equality 

It is no secret that social media usage is monitored by the authorities; it can be reined in or silenced if deemed too subversive. The Guardian, December 2013

Generally, the countries that implement political or social filtering also target to various degrees proxies and circumvention tools to prevent users from bypassing filters. Some of these countries also block online translation services and privacy tools apparently because they also can be used to access blocked content. OpenNet Initiative


9. Standards and Regulation

It is necessary to find "smart" ways to develop capacity and expertise on these complex issues (namely; openness, inclusiveness, accountability, effectiveness, coherence and respect for applicable laws), especially among less-resources stakeholders. Global Voices Online July 2013

A Jordanian Media Licensing Law (Press and Publication Law) has caused the shutting down of almost 300 websites. Al-monitor, June 2013

The latest threat to face Moroccans is the Code Numérique, a draft bill that would impose additional restrictions on the country's Internet. Several articles clearly jeopardise users and citizens' freedom online. Taken together these provisions could be used to censor websites, sanction, and jail activists, or anyone who would openly criticise or challenge decision makers. Electronic Frontier Foundation, December 2013


10. Governance

There is a serious need to a dedicated legal instrument that codifies digital rights and clarifies the obligations of governments and responsibilities of service providers in relation to Internet access. This is too important to be left to the whims of unaccountable agencies and repressive regimes. Global Voices Online, July 2013

In five out of the six countries (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Syria) studied, the policy-making and legislative process and environment do not take a multi-stakeholder approach and do not engage civil society. The Quest for an Open Internet in the Middle East and Northern Africa, IGMENA


11. Others

Violations of Internet freedom, we blame it on national security, but most of the time it has nothing to do with national security, it is with establishment security. Dr. Hoballah, Head of Regulatory Authority of Lebanon, MENA ICT Forum, July 2013

Internet is an empowering tool that can help broaden and deepen social engagement, personal empowerment and economic growth. MENA ICT week, Arab Internet Manifesto, Syria 2011