CAIRO: Egypt was listed as an “enemy of the internet by Reporters Without Borders as a US State Department 2009 report on human rights highlighted Egypt’s ill-treatment of bloggers and internet activists in 2009.
The internet has become a “battlefield for supporters and opponents of fundamental human rights, the US State Department report said.
“During the year, police harassed, detained, and allegedly abused certain bloggers and internet activists [in Egypt], it added.
“2009 was a year in which people gained greater access than ever before to more information about human rights through the internet, cell phones, and other forms of connective technologies, the report said, “and yet, it was the year in which governments spent the most time, money and attention finding regulatory and technical means to curtail [.] the flow of critical information.
While the Egyptian government does not actively censor the internet: according to a 2009 report by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), it continues to arrest, harass and prosecute Egyptian bloggers – a practice condemned by the US State Department report.
Bloggers’ detention and harassment is done under the Emergency Law, which authorizes incommunicado detention for prolonged periods under suspicions of threatening national security.
Egypt was listed as one of the 10 worst countries to be a blogger in 2009 by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Though the Egyptian government has actively promoted the use of the internet through low-cost access, only 15.9 percent of the Egyptian population uses the internet, and it is systematically monitored by the Egyptian government.
The US report identified at least seven pro-democracy bloggers, including Alaa Malek Mostafa, Asma Ali, Karim Al-Shaer, and Mohammad Sharkawy – who was also tortured while in detention.
Political blogs posed a problem for 15 activists who included Philip Rizk, a graduate student at the American University of Cairo. All 15 activists were held during a six-mile march in Qaliubiya governorate, as they aimed to draw attention to the humanitarian situation in Gaza under the Israeli embargo, calling for President Mubarak to end the blockade.
Iran, another state listed as an “enemy of the internet, witnessed a large drop in bandwidth during the June election, the US report said, which experts deem a preventive measure from the government to deter online activist protests.
China, also on the list, was accused of restricting information and blocking access to foreign and domestic websites, and punishing online political critics. To these allegations, China defends its practices by accusing the US of “information imperialism.
In North Korea, “there were no independent media, and internet access was limited to high-ranking officials and other elites, the report added.
Russia, which Reporters Without Borders deem “under surveillance, has been observed to have arrested politically active bloggers, and in Turkey, several sites, including the video sharing service YouTube have been blocked.
While Reporters Without Borders’ director Clothilde Le Coz accused US technology companies such as Cysco Systems Inc. for aiding regimes by selling products which aid censorship, Cysco iterated in a statement on Thursday that “the company does not provide any government with any special capabilities, and the products sold in China, are also sold elsewhere.