2003-04-07 05:31:33 UTC
OPPOSING ACTIONS AGAINST THE ONLINE PRESENCE OF MIDDLE EAST NEWS AGENCY,
4 April 2003
APC opposes actions against the online presence of Al-Jazeera. The
Internet must be allowed to freely perform its unique and vital role as
a promoter of "freedom of expression" and content diversity, especially
in times of conflict.
APC opposes censorship on the Internet and states in its Internet Rights
Charter that "the Internet must be protected from all attempts to
censor social and political debate". The Internet Rights Charter argues
that "the Internet is an ideal space for the recording and promotion of
culturally and politically diverse content".
This is consistent with Article 19 of the UN International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights which states that the right to freedom of
opinion and expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart
information is a recognised human right and must be protected.
The Case of the Al-Jazeera Website:
APC is concerned to note that a prominent online Middle Eastern news and
information source - the Al-Jazeera website - has been the target of
hacker attacks, domain name hijacking and the withdrawal of hosting
services all within the first few weeks of the war on Iraq led by the
Called "an unusually independent voice in the Arab world" by the
Associated Press wire service, the Al-Jazeera satellite TV network
launched its English-language web site on Monday March 24, attracting
significant media coverage.
However, instead of news articles from an Arab perspective, visitors to
the Al-Jazeera website on Thursday March 27 were greeted by the image of
the United States' flag and a message proclaiming "Let Freedom Ring".
The Al-Jazeera website address www.al-jazeera.net had been hijacked so
that visitors who attempted to read either the English or Arab language
sites were unable to do so as their browsers were automatically
"redirected" to the pro-U.S. page.
Al-Jazeera has also had to contend with denial of service (DOS) attacks
from so-called "patriotic" hackers. These attacks artificially increase
the levels of visitor traffic to a site until the server hosting the
site cannot cope with the traffic any longer and crashes, knocking the
Al-Jazeera's US-based Internet service provider has also just cancelled
their contract with Al-Jazeera. It is understood that Al-Jazeera has
found a new provider in Europe, however in the meantime on April 2 (the
estimated date of the contract cancellation) the Al-Jazeera sites were
The computer hacks, online vandalism and the canceling of Al-Jazeera's
web hosting contract all interfere with the UN declared right to
"receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers".
Diversifying our News and Information Sources:
The Internet is a valuable tool for the diversification of media
sources, especially for citizens of the countries that make up the
invading coalition forces.
"One could watch the US television networks around the clock for a week
and not realise the extent of public opposition and disquiet [to the
Why is the unease and disaffection of the American public so
invisible? The answer is that it's only invisible if you're looking for
it in the mainstream media. It's there all right - but it's on the net,"
wrote John Naughton of the British newspaper, the Observer.
In the second week of the war, the most searched on word in various
search engines was "Al-Jazeera" and other variants. A considerable
number of subscribers have joined their English language news service
and North American readers in huge numbers are actively seeking outside
media sources on the war, according to a study by the Pew Internet and
American Life project.
As online information and communication pioneers, APC and APC members -
groups which have facilitated the use of the Internet for social
justice, development and peace to civil society since the late 1980s -
believe that the Internet must be allowed to freely perform its unique
and vital role as a promoter of "freedom of expression" and a multiplier
and diversifier of information sources, especially in times of conflict.
English Language Information Resources from the Arab-Speaking World:
Besides Al-Jazeera, there are several English-language news sites that
present an Arab perspective. Ra'ida Al-Zubi, member of the APC Women's
Networking Support Programme recommends Al-Hayat
(http://english.daralhayat.com), The Jordan Times (www.jordantimes.com)
and Lebanon's Daily Star (www.dailystar.com.lb). An Arabic-English
translation tool which translates web pages for a fee is considered the
best Arabic translation tool online
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international
network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and
supporting groups and individuals through the strategic use of
information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially
Internet-related technologies. Our network of members and partners spans
the globe, with presence in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa,
Asia, Latin America and North America.
Email: info at apc.org
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