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Archive for the ‘Censorship’ Category

In the Egypt Independent’s closure, an end of a beginning

Posted by vmsalama on April 30, 2013

by Vivian Salama

Columbia Journalism Review

April 30, 2013

Like many things in Egypt these days, the fight to save the Egypt Independent from termination went viral almost instantly. A cry for help by the newspaper’s editors earlier this year cited “the current economic crisis” as reason for the looming closure of the country’s most highly respected English-language newspaper, as well as the “political limitations manifested in rising restrictions on freedom of expression” since the election of President Mohamed Morsi.

Journalists protest outside the Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo

Journalists protest outside the Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo

 

“On April 25, after weeks of international campaigns and fundraisers, the executive management of the Independent abruptly pulled the plug on its operations, days earlier than scheduled. A statement from the editorial staff read:

“Four years after the birth of Egypt Independent, the management of Al-Masry Media Corporation has informed our editorial team that our print and onlinenews operation is being shut down.”

Because we owe it to our readers, we decided to put together a closing edition, which would have been available on 25 April, to explain the conditions under which a strong voice of independent and progressive journalism in Egypt is being terminated.

Opened four years ago as an English language division to privately owned Arabic daily El Masry El Youm, the newspaper was one of few that chronicled the real beginnings of the Egyptian revolution, from the economic deterioration to the death of Khaled Said, brutally beaten to death by police in Alexandria in 2010—coverage of which went viral on social media websites, planting the seed for the January 25, 2011 popular uprising.

“This kind of press played an important role in the wave of contentious politics that started in 2005 and onwards,” said Lina Attalah, editor in chief of the now defunctEgypt Independent. The paper’s closure has made headlines around the world, as it represents a blatant setback for a revolution hard fought and now, seemingly, coming apart at the seams.

Like a handful of news organizations in Egypt today, Egypt Independent lured a new generation of journalists that were not schooled in the art of self-censorship, once a necessity to operate safely as a reporter in Egypt. These newly untethered journalists put emphasis on the post-uprising day-to-day struggles, as well as on more mainstream coverage of street battles, sectarian strife, and rape. Most importantly, the paper provided a medium for bilingual Egyptians to speak to people beyond their borders with an intellectual, analytical, nuanced voice, often tackling issues that would otherwise not get attention in the international media. (more….)

Posted in Al Jazeera, Arab, Arab Media & Society, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bloggers, Cairo University, Censorship, Comedy, Constitution, corruption, Culture, Daily Star Egypt, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Freedom of Speech, Journalism, Judiciary, Media, Middle East, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Protests | Leave a Comment »

Middle East Activists Muzzled and Arrested in Arab Gulf States

Posted by vmsalama on April 5, 2013

April 4, 2013

The Daily Beast (click here for original link)

By Vivian Salama

Within hours of being handed a two-year jail term for allegedly insulting the ruler of Kuwait, 27-year old Hamed Al Khalidi turned to Twitter– the very apparatus that got him into trouble—with a poem:

“I said: why prison?

I’m not a thief; I’m not a criminal…

neither deliberate nor accidental.

But when I realized my sentence serves my country,

I began to enjoy prison as though it is paradise.”

gulf activismAl Khalidi is part of a growing list of young activists in Kuwait and across the Arab Gulf being targeted for “electronic crimes”—for voicing the very same longing for freedom, justice, and opportunity as those in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, where online activism catalyzed mass street protests. Days before Al Khalidi’s sentencing, the Kuwaiti appeals court extended the jail term of another opposition Twitterer, Bader al-Rashidi, from two to five years on charges that he attempted to instigate a coup and insulted the country’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Kuwait, home to the most dynamic political system in the Gulf, has already sentenced some 10 online activists to various prison terms on charges ranging from insulting members of parliament (or the Emir) to inciting protests.

“The government of Kuwait and other Gulf governments have begun to feel the danger of Twitter that toppled presidents and governments in the Arab countries and it is clear from the way they are abusing many Twitter users with these false charges,” said Mohammed Al Humaidi, a lawyer and director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights. “Most of the Gulf governments don’t have a law specifically linked to electronic crimes, and so this is unconstitutional.” (more…)

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Bloggers, Censorship, corruption, dictatorship, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Internet, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Journalism, Khalidi, Media, Middle East, Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Oman, Persian Gulf, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Skype, Social Media, Television, Tunisia, Twitter, United Arab Emirates, Viber, Whatsapp | Leave a Comment »

Saudi Arabia: The Internet’s Enemy Cracks Down on Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber

Posted by vmsalama on March 29, 2013

by Vivian Salama

Mar 29, 2013

The Daily Beast 

Infamous for the severe measures it uses to crack down on alleged security threats, Saudi Arabia is now picking on web-based communication apps, which teens rely on heavily for daily contact. Vivian Salama reports.

Photo by HASSAN AMMARSkype, Whatsapp and Viber are subject to a ban in Saudi Arabia, as it demands the rights to monitor all communications via these web-based communications apps.

Despite a medley of applications now available to help Internet users avert such a ban, the kingdom declared that it would block the services within its borders unless the operators grant the government surveillance rights. The companies have until Saturday—the start of the Saudi workweek— to respond to Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), local news reports said.

While Saudi Arabia is infamous for taking authoritarian measures to crack down on perceived security threats, it has increasingly shifted its attention toward the telecommunications sector in recent months. The CITC announced in September that all pre-paid SIM card users must enter a personal identification number when recharging their accounts and the number must match the one registered with their mobile operator when the SIM is purchased. The country’s second-largest telecom company, known as Mobily, was temporarily banned from selling its pay-as-you-go SIM cards after it failed to comply with the new regulations.

“A proposal for a ban would be driven by political and security concerns as opposed to economic concerns,” said Aiyah Saihati, a Saudi businesswoman and writer. “The Saudi government is refraining from taking an extremely authoritarian style dealing with its critical youth population. Saudi may try, without censorship, to find ways to monitor communications.”

As revolution gripped much of the Arab world in 2011, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, spearheaded a counterrevolution—working to appease its critics with monetary and political concessions, while suppressing protests via brutal crackdowns. Reporters Without Borders lists Saudi Arabia as an “Enemy of the Internet,” saying last year that “its rigid opposition to the simmering unrest on the Web caused it to tighten its Internet stranglehold even more to stifle all political and social protests.” (click here to read more…)

 

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Blackberry, Bloggers, Business, Censorship, dictatorship, Dubai, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Film, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Google, Human Rights, Internet, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Journalism, Kuwait, Libya, Media, Middle East, Oman, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Sexuality, Shi'ite, Skype, Social Media, Television, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Viber, Whatsapp, Women, YouTube | Leave a Comment »

Terry Jones’ Latest Insult? U.S. Embassy Protested Over Anti-Islam Film Promoted by Terry Jones

Posted by vmsalama on September 11, 2012

Chanting protesters attacked the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Tuesday, enraged over a film that purportedly insults the Prophet Muhammad—and linked to U.S. pastor Terry Jones. Vivian Salama reports.

by  | September 11, 2012

The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
As Americans commemorated the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on Tuesday, protesters in Cairo shredded and burned the American flag and scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy.

At least 2,000 demonstrators, enraged over Innocence of Muslims, a little-known film produced in the United States that allegedly insults the Prophet Muhammad, shouted, “We will sacrifice ourselves for you, Allah’s messenger!” A group of men managed to mount the embassy’s walls waving a black flag with the words “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Many of those gathered did not know the name of the film, nor did they know the details of their grievance against the U.S. pastor linked to it, Terry Jones, whose 2010 threats to burn the Qurantriggered deadly riots in Afghanistan. Similar attacks were reported on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where an American was killed and part of the consulate burned, according to Al Jazeera.

Al-Azhar, one of the Arab world’s most elite centers for higher Islamic learning, reportedly condemned the film on Tuesday, citing a scene in which a character based on the Prophet Muhammad goes on trial. The Wall Street Journal reportedthat Innocence of Muslims’ writer, editor, and producer is a 52-year-old American, Sam Bacile. Jones is promoting the film, whose new 14-minute Arabic-dubbed trailer on YouTube depicts the Prophet as a deranged womanizer calling for massacres.

The organization standupamericanow.orgran a live stream on Tuesday of a press conference featuring Jones in what he dubbed “International Judge Muhammad Day,” during which he listed reasons why, in his opinion, the Prophet should be put on hypothetical trial.

Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet, be it in an illustration or film, to be a violation of Islamic belief. Similar protests were staged outside the Danish Embassy in Cairo and across the Muslim world in 2005 after the daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet. (click here to read more…)

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Censorship, Christian, Christianity, Clinton, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Egypt, Employment, Film, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Islam, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Qaddafi, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Terrorism, Tunisia, United States | Leave a Comment »

“The Protester”: A Photo Journal of the Egyptian Revolution

Posted by vmsalama on December 15, 2011

Thanks to TIME Magazine for recognizing the revolutionaries all over the world… I’ve been meaning to write this for quite some time but only finding the chance to do it now.

A year ago when Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor in Tunisia, burned himself out of frustration from a political system that neglected him, I was en route to Beirut ahead of the Christmas holiday and writing, mainly, about the credit crunch in the Arab Gulf states and mounting concerns that the banking system would not soon recover from the blow. Days after I returned from Beirut, my host, Rania Abouzeid, came to stay with me in Dubai in a desperate attempt to fly to Tunisia, where flights were almost entirely grounded amid an uprising across the country. It was hard to imagine then that the desperate act of this young man not only set in motion a revolution in his country, but around across the region.

Jan. 27, 2011: me and Rania Abouzeid heading to Cairo (at 3am -- ughhh!!!)

On January 14, 2011, following a month of violent protests against his rule, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – Tunisia’s president since 1987 — was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia along with his wife and their three children.  A week later, Rania and I were on a flight to Cairo where calls for a revolution had begun to circulate on social media websites. They were days I will never forget, and with TIME Magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year issue being dedicated this year to The Protester, I want to share with you all a few memories and photos of the protesters I met in Cairo this year. (Click here to read some of my stories on the Arab Spring)

On January 27, two days after the protests officially begun, Internet and mobile phone service was completely cut off in Egypt and we were left guessing where crowds were gathering. After trying a few spots around town, Rania and I decided to go toward the Mohendiseen neighborhood near the Moustafa Mahmoud mosque. It was a good guess! About 500 protesters had gathered after Friday prayers where they came face to face with riot police chanting slogans like “The people want the end of the regime” and “Hosni Mubarak: illegitimate.”

We began to march, with the intention of going toward Tahrir Square. (Rania and I were quickly separated in the crowd and were each forced to continue reporting on our own). Weaving through side streets and alleys in the Cairo neighborhood, people watched us from balconies, throwing bottles of water, garlic and onions, and bottles of vinegar – all simply remedies for tear gas inhalation, because everyone knew what lie ahead.  The longer we marched, the more the crowd swelled, with protesters called on those people in their homes not to be afraid.
Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama
Jan 27: Protesters Near Moustafa Mahmoud Mosque/Photo by Vivian SalamaS

Sure enough, we were quickly confronted by tanks and soldiers firing tear gas at the crowd. I’ve never seen so much camaraderie in my life. Soldiers at a nearby military hospital threw medical masks at the protesters and pharmacists handed them out to the crowds. At one point I felt quite ill from the tear gas. A man approached from behind me and pressed a vinegar-covered mask against my mouth and nose. A nearby vendor (who probably struggles to feed his own family with the pennies he earns) emptied his refrigerator, handing out water bottles and cans of soda to the fatigued protesters.

Every where I looked, people were helping each other, helping strangers tie their masks, sharing water bottles, aiding those who were most affected by the gas.

There was one point, marching with the crowd from Mohendiseen, when we approached a major intersection and I heard roaring cheers. I jumped up on a car to see what had happened and was personally overcome by emotion. From three different directions, massive groups of protesters were approaching the intersection – the other groups coming from as far as Giza and the Nasr City. They did this without Internet or mobile phones.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Groups of young men pushed to the front of the crowd and began to battle riot police, taking over their vehicles and chasing them away. Our group, now numbered in the hundreds of thousands, pushed slowly across the historic Qasr El Nil bridge in an attempt to move into Tahrir. There were moments when I worried that an attack by the military would trigger a stampede – we were stuffed tightly onto the bridge. But every time protesters began to push back, the young men in the crowd would grab the women in the crowd and push them against the bridge railing so to protect them from being knocked down.

photo by Vivian Salama

Some were more prepared than others!! Cairo Jan. 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

It was a long night with protesters burning the ruling National Democratic Party headquarters and battling with soldiers in Tahrir. Riot police trucks were set on fire (and the Semiramis Hotel, where many journalists took refuge) was partially on fire for part of the evening. I was trapped in Tahrir for the night and forced to take a last minute room at the Semiramis. I woke up early the next morning to a different Cairo, where charred military tanks stood in the middle of Tahrir Square and smoke billowed from the NDP headquarters and, sadly, from the adjacent National Museum. It would take another two weeks (only!) to overthrow Hosni Mubarak but that first Friday was by far the most memorable. There is an Arabic expression that often refers to the Egyptian people as being “light blooded” (light hearted/good senses of humor). They definitely showed their spirit throughout the frustrating 19 days (and 30 years) it took to shake up their political system.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tahrir Square, January 28, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tahrir Square, January 28, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

me in Tahrir (late January 2011)

I visited Bahrain in the weeks that followed and I spent a lot of time covering the uprisings in Yemen and, less so, the ongoing crisis in Syria. After years of battling misguided stereotypes of terrorism and violence, these protesters have showed the world that they desire freedom and a decent standard of living and they have the right to demand it just as those in Europe and the US demand of their governments.

The Tunisians, Egyptians and all the other citizens around the world fighting for democracy have a very long and bumpy road ahead.  The TIME Magazine Person of the Year issue questions whether there is a global tipping point for frustration. I believe what happened this year is, in large part, because of overpopulation and because of the global economic slowdown touched societies rich and poor – but toppled those that were already on the brink before markets crash. The world is smaller than ever thanks to the Internet and various technologies that allow us to share experiences with people on opposite corners of the world. As we continue to get closer, and the world, smaller, it will become impossible to distance ourselves from even the most seemingly remote events.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Posted in American, Arab, Arab League, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bloggers, Cairo University, Censorship, Coptic, Culture, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Environment, Foreign Policy, Hosni Mubarak, Internet, Journalism, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Negotiation, Obama, Politics, Qaddafi, Qatar, Recession, Refugees, Religion, State of Emergency, Succession, Syria, Terrorism, Tunisia, United Nations, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »

Google Says Censorship Not Obstacle to Its Middle East Growth

Posted by vmsalama on July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010

click here for original link.

By Vivian Salama and Heidi Couch

Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular Internet search engine, said it’s not hindered in the Middle East by government-backed censorship as it seeks to ride growing opportunities in the region.

“We tend to operate in a very, very competitive industry, so users are generally one click away from changing their preferences,” Ari Kesisoglu, manager for Google Middle East, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Dubai. “We are not censoring our own information, and we’ve never been asked to.”

Google, based in Mountain View, California, is seeking to gain ground in the Middle East, where it estimates that less than 15 percent of the residents go online. The company went public with a dispute in China in January, saying it was no longer willing to comply with filtering regulations.

“If you want to play ball in China or the Middle East or basically any other country outside, you’ve got to play by the local rules,” said Jin Yoon, an analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Hong Kong. “If you don’t play by the local rules, you essentially have to mark yourself out of the market.”

China’s government confirmed that it renewed Google’s Internet license, after the U.S. company’s local venture pledged to allow regulators to supervise its Web content, the official Xinhua news agency said July 11. The move gives Google a chance to win search share lost to market leader Baidu Inc. and woo advertisers put off by its dispute with the government.

“Whatever happened in China is completely exceptional and it doesn’t result in us making any decisions globally,” Kesisoglu said.

Middle East Censorship

In many Middle Eastern countries, television programs and films cut out nudity, physical intimacy or homosexual scenes. Internet firewalls are common across the region, particularly in the Persian Gulf, where several countries ban popular websites such as Skype and Flickr. Websites that are critical of Islam or ruling political regimes are often blocked.

In August, Yahoo! Inc. purchased Maktoob.com, providing it with an entry point into a market that includes 22 countries and more than 350 million Arabic speakers. Maktoob is the largest portal in the Arab world with 16 million monthly users.Vodafone Egypt last year purchased Sarmady, a Cairo-based provider of digital content.

“Google, Yahoo, help the region and lobby the government for less censorship,” said Samih Toukan, founder of Maktoob.com. “We lobby as local people because censorship hurts us, it hurts innovation it hurts growth.”

Bloggers Arrested

Global Voices Online, an international bloggers’ network, has documented 206 cases of bloggers under arrest or threat, mostly in China, Egypt and Iran. In Egypt and Iran, online political activists have been arrested and prosecuted after rallying in support of opposition parties.

Restrictions stretch beyond the Web and films. In the United Arab Emirates, Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry smartphones may be subject to monitoring if the government is able to bring communications by the handheld devices under emergency and security rules.

Blackberry devices, introduced in the U.A.E. in 2006, are not covered by the country’s 2007 Safety, Emergency and National Security rules, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said July 25.

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Business, Censorship, China, Dubai, Economy, Egypt, Google, Iran, Media, Middle East, Politics, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »

‘Sex and City’ Sequel May Face Abu Dhabi Ban

Posted by vmsalama on May 29, 2010

by Vivian Salama 

click here for story link

May 29 (Bloomberg) — Abu Dhabi is the setting for “Sex and the City 2.” Yet the movie may never be shown there.

The Warner Bros. film, released this week in the U.S., moves its high-rolling stars from New York to one of the richest cities in the world — where it has stirred anger even before the United Arab Emirates censors decide if its sexual content is unacceptable. The first “Sex and the City” film in 2008 was banned for its risque story.

Critics of Abu Dhabi say that censorship makes it unsuitable to become a cultural hub. The emirate produces more than 7 percent of the world’s oil supply and wants to attract art, music, theater and other creative industries to help its economy diversify. The film may help boost tourism at a time when the Abu Dhabi government is aiming to lure 3 million foreign visitors a year by 2012.

“In the Middle East there are three taboos that people don’t talk about: religion, sex and politics,” said Mohammed Aboelenein, chairman of the sociology department at the U.A.E. University in Al Ain, a city in Abu Dhabi. “In the meantime we want our society to modernize. It’s contradictory.”

The new film’s scenes of the stars riding camels through the desert and confronting women in face veils are an injustice to Abu Dhabi’s diversity, said some opponents.

“In most Hollywood films, Arabs are shown either as terrorists or Bedouins,” said Aboelenein.

Sex and the City 2

Arab Stereotype

The film “identifies Abu Dhabi with camels?” asked Jack Shaheen, author of “Reel Bad Arabs,” a book about Arab stereotypes in film and television. “The producers and writers of Sex Inc. grew up with these stereotypes. It’s what they know — the mythology rather than the reality.”

Critics also note that the movie’s “Abu Dhabi” scenes were actually shot in Morocco. The National Media Council, the government body that decides which films are appropriate for viewing, said that it was never approached by the filmmakers about whether they could shoot in Abu Dhabi. A spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said that any talk of a ban on the film was merely speculation when the country had not yet been presented with a copy.

Abu Dhabi television programs and films cut clips showing nudity, physical intimacy, or scenes that are homosexual in nature. The emirate bans art or music deemed offensive to Islam. Popular websites including Skype and Flickr are blocked in most of the country.

Shooting Stars U.A.E., the distributor for all Warner Bros. films in the country, has no knowledge if the movie will be released, Roy Chacra, the company’s general manager, said in a telephone interview.

Bikinis, Bars

Until recently, Abu Dhabi was in the shadow of its less conservative neighbor, Dubai, which built its reputation as a haven for foreigners looking to join the region’s prosperity while embracing more liberal lifestyles. A mere 5-hour drive from the border of Saudi Arabia, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are tolerant to bikini-wearing beachgoers, bars and clubs.

Abu Dhabi last year provided $20 billion in assistance to its neighbor after Dubai World, a state-run holding company, moved to reschedule payment on $26 billion debt.

“Since the economic crisis, the drying up of credit, and the spate of redundancies, both expatriates and nationals have been hurt, and social tensions have increased,” said Christopher Davidson, a professor of Middle East studies at Durham University in the U.K., who is writing a book about Abu Dhabi.

Kissing Arrest  

Two Britons were arrested in Dubai for kissing in public, after an Emirati woman complained that the display of affection insulted her last November. A teenager in Abu Dhabi who claimed she was gang-raped faced a possible lashing for having sex out of wedlock and she retracted the accusation.

The emirate’s non-oil businesses will contribute 50 percent of its gross domestic product by 2015, adding about $167 billion per year, as stated in its 22-year economic plan.

Abu Dhabi has built a Formula One raceway, and is working on theme parks with companies including Time Warner Inc., Ferrari SpA and MGM Mirage. The government has invested 100 billion dirham ($27.2 billion) for a cultural district on Saadiyat Island, including new branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums.

To contact the writer on the story: Vivian Salama in Abu Dhabi at vsalama@bloomberg.net

Posted in Abu Dhabi, Censorship, Film, Islam, Media, Middle East, New York, Religion, Sexuality, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »

 
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