The quest for an open Internet in the Arab countries, free of government control, has led Hivos to engage internet users from the region in the global discussion about Internet Governance and the specific policies toward the Internet environment in their countries.
From 16 to 19 March 2013, Hivos held an onsite training in Tunis on Internet Governance and policy in partnership together with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s Tunisia office.
The training was delivered by selected international experts on Internet Governance and Human Rights. It gathered participants from Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Oman and Lebanon who represent civil society actors, bloggers, journalists, legal advisors, public sector employees and private sector companies operating in the Internet industry or the technical community.
The objective of the training was to give participants background information on Internet Governance with a sharp focus on the human rights issues specific to Arab countries. In addition to the training sessions, participants were divided into four multi-stakeholder working groups to analyse issues such as Internet censorship, cyber security, access to the Internet as a right and the obstacles hindering Internet access in the Arab world.
In an open forum to map Internet policy issues, the discussion focused on defining the challenges civil society is facing in trying to influence Arab state policies on internet governance. Most participants agreed that Arab states and governments have yet to adhere to a free and open Internet given the high incidence of censorship, Internet and social media surveillance and bloggers’ arrests throughout the MENA region. They concluded that the way Arab governments approach safeguarding Internet freedom will be determined by the ultimate outcome of the various uprisings in the region.