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For example, censorship of online media and print journalism in Bahrain is exerted using the 2002 Press Law.14 Kuwait’s 2006 Press Law allows imprisonment of journalists for making references to Islam that are deemed insulting,15 or for articles seen as “against national interests.”16 Oman’s 1984 Press and Publication Law authorizes the government to censor publications deemed politically, culturally, or sexually offensive.17 Syria’s 2001 Press Law sets out sweeping controls over publications printed in Syria.18 And journalists in Tunisia have been prosecuted by Tunisia’s press code which bans offending the president, disturbing order, and publishing what the government perceives as false news.19 Yemen’s 1990 Press and Publications Law subjects publications and broadcast media to broad prohibitions and harsh penalties.20 The press law in Morocco has been used to suppress outspoken online writers.21 In addition to press codes, some countries often use penal codes to suppress journalists and online writers.
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa continue to invest in IT infrastructure and media projects as part of their strategies to develop the local economies and create employment.The law includes penalties of ten years in prison and a fine for Web site operators who advocate or support terrorism; three years and fine for financial fraud or invasion of privacy; and five years and a fine for those guilty of distributing pornography or other materials that violate public law, religious values and social standards of the kingdom.Accomplices of the guilty parties and even those who are proven to have only intended to engage in unlawful IT acts can receive up to half of maximum punishments.29 Terms and conditions imposed by ISPs are also used to control access in some countries.The site offers to facilitate blocking of Web sites by sending user-submitted URLs of questionable content to the censors in some of the region’s countries.Also, some Internet users in North African countries where there is no social filtering have organized online campaigns to demand filtering of sexually explicit content.13 Pro-censorship advocates and anti-censorship activists have also used the court system in their attempts to implement or remove censorship.In May 2009 however, a Cairo court ruled in favor of an Egyptian lawyer and ordered the Egyptian government to ban access to pornographic Web sites because they are deemed offensive to the values of religion and society.
In Tunisia however, a blogger challenged the Web filtering regime in the country by filing a legal suit against the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) for censoring the social networking site Facebook after it was briefly blocked in August 2008.
Most incumbent telecom companies in North Africa are already in private hands, with exception of Algerie Telecom, the privatization of which has been postponed due to the global economic crisis.7 However, experts say telecom liberalization in the Middle East and North Africa still lags behind the rest of the world in terms cost and efficiency, a matter which does not encourage direct foreign investment.8 The Middle East and North Africa is one of the most heavily censored regions in the world.
Human rights watchdogs and free speech advocacy groups continue to criticize the media restrictions and repressive legal regimes, and over the past few years, a great number of bloggers and cyber-dissidents have been jailed.
Access control in the Middle East and North Africa is multilayered; governments and authorities use different measures to regulate Internet access and online activities.
These measures include laws and regulations, technical filtering, physical restrictions, surveillance and monitoring, and harassments and arrests.
The court dismissed the case in November 2008 without providing any explanation.