Bloggers in the Arab World - Playing with Fire

News article, posted 11.23.2010, in:

By Amira al-Ahl

In the Arab world, as elsewhere, the Internet opens up new freedoms and opportunities for democracy. However, as in China and Iran, it also gives rise to opposition from the authorities. Anyone active on the Internet lives dangerously; blogging involves playing with fire.

"Power is founded on Justice" proclaim large golden letters in the foyer of the court building at Hadayeq al-Qobba in the north of Cairo. For the group of young people assembled here this morning, this sounds like pure mockery. Some laugh bitterly when they catch sight of the inscription.

However, on this early Thursday morning, they still hope that perhaps this promise might be fulfilled – that justice, rather than arbitrariness and tyranny, is the foundation of power.

Police harassment

One member of the group in particular is hoping for justice: Wael Abbas. The 35-year-old is charged with having cut off his neighbour's Internet connection, which would entail six months in prison.

In November, a twenty-man squad of security police in six vehicles turned up in front of Abbas' house to arrest him. They threatened his mother and forced their way into the flat without a warrant for his arrest or authorisation to search the place. "This was extremely tough action," says attorney Gamal Eid of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

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