10 Reasons Why Arab Spring Happened and Continues a Year on

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July 14, 2012 00:25
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REASON #10: RESTRICTIONS ON COMMUNICATION AND CENSORSHIP

In today’s world, the young generation is growing up on social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc. and is aptly labeled as the ‘2.0 generation’. The young people, under the age of 30, form the bulk of the population in the Middle East, above 50% in many countries. With unemployment levels soaring despite higher education credentials, the youth have taken refuge in the ever-powerful world of the Internet, which provides them not only a voice but also the skills and qualifications to get employment and improve their social standing.

Many governments in the Middle East region, instead of addressing the frustrations of the youth and solving their problems, tend to ignore them or tackle with half-hearted measures. And when such measures backfire, the first step a government takes is the silencing of the voices of dissent and discontent by any means possible. The blanket ban covers not only TV, radio, newspapers, or books but encroaches on the Internet namely Facebook and other social media networks where young people converge and interact, often venting out their frustration.

A recent report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says five regimes in the Middle East and North Africa are among the world’s “worst Internet oppressors”, bent on intimidating and imprisoning bloggers, journalists and online activists. The countries include Egypt, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

blocked internet website screenshot

A typical screen appearing on the address of a blocked website in Saudi Arabia. Websites hosting pornographic content as well as information deemed un-Islamic or contrary to the country's socio-political norms are also prohibited. Photo - kalharbi.com

On top of it, countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia routinely filter Internet websites and blocked access to popular websites such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter on the pretext of restricting harmful information, curbing immoral activities and discouraging the mixing of men and women that could lead to promiscuity. However, the main purpose behind such measures is to maintain the status quo and give regimes the power to crush dissent and control the thought process of the masses, especially the youth.

Saudi Arabia alone has blocked an estimated 400,000 websites that are deemed contrary to the state or the system. Iran is not far behind from its arch-rival and also bans and restricts full-fledge access to the Internet and severely punishes people who refuse to comply with the draconian rules and regulations.

Flash points: UAE, Gaza Strip, Libya, Syria, Qatar, Somalia.

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