Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Arab bloggers defy arrest

Abbas is one of a handful of Egyptian bloggers
documenting alleged human rights abuses

By Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

"A number of Arab bloggers say they will continue to publish their messages online even as regional governments have started to aggressively restrict their activities.

Wael Abbas, an Egyptian online activist who uploaded YouTube video clips of two policemen torturing and sodomising a microbus driver in 2006, says the government is now pressuring bloggers in his country.

"The government is turning its eyes to us, forcing bloggers to shut down their blogs and harassing them," he told Al Jazeera.

The YouTube torture videos sparked public outrage and led to a landmark case in which the two policemen were sentenced to five years in prison.

But Abbas says he has come under increasing pressure since the case.

"They know what I am doing online. I have received several phone calls in the past year in which I have been told to stop cooperating with human rights organisations," he said......

Jail time is not the only challenge bloggers face. In some countries, even posting content can be a problem.

Syria, for example, is taking a two-pronged approach - first blocking sites like the popular web community tool Facebook, which was banned in November, and then arresting some of the online activists who find a way around the censorship......

Saudi blogger arrested

Bloggers in Saudi Arabia have also started to complain of government harassment.

In December, Fouad al-Farhan, popularly known as 'the dean' of the Saudi blogging community and a strong advocate of democratic reform, was arrested in Jeddah.

The Saudi government said al-Farhan was arrested for violating the kingdom's laws.....

Tunisia's cyber police

Meanwhile, Tunisian bloggers say they tread carefully to avoid the attention of what they call the country's "cyber police".

Mohamed Bouriga, a journalist currently living in Canada, says hackers routinely attack blogs and rewrite or delete content in the hopes of discouraging online dissent.

"I've had that happen to my blog. All internet connections are filtered by the Tunisian Internet Agency," he said......"

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