: Lebanon: Freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet in the Arab region and their impact on human development


On 19 December 2015, during the Fourth Arab Internet Governance Forum held in Beirut, Maharat Foundation, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) with the support of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), organised a workshop entitled "Freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet in the Arab region and their impact on human development." The workshop was moderated by Khalid Ibrahim, Co-Director of GCHR and included speakers Gamal Eid, Executive Director of ANHRI, Roula Mikhael, Executive Director of Mahrat Foundation, Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-Director of GCHR and Dr. Khaldoun Farhat, former CEO of TerraNet.

The workshop was opened by Khalid Ibrahim who welcomed the attendees and explained the close relationship between freedom of expression and human development, adding that there is no creativity without respect for public freedoms of citizens.

Gamal Eid used documented statistics to talk about the ongoing violations in the Arab region, pointing out that 70% of these violations have targeted the Internet activists. He also gave a brief overview of the "Their Freedom is Their Right” Campaign, which seeks to shed light on prisoners of conscience in the countries of the Arab region and defend their legitimate right to be free.

Then Roula Mikhael talked about laws that are used to limit freedom of expression as well as to target activists on social media network sites and the need for solidarity of everyone in order to protect freedom of expression in the Arab region.

She was followed by Maryam Al-Khawaja who talked about her personal experience, as she and her family have been targeted by the authorities in Bahrain due to her human rights work. She also described the use of various social media network sites used to protect public freedoms throughout the region.

The last speaker, Dr. Khaldoun Farhat, stressed in his speech that his company as a part of the private sector is doing its utmost to preserve users' privacy and provide better services for them.

This was followed by a series of fruitful discussions between the speakers and the audience that dealt with various topics including digital security, laws that limit freedom of opinion, targeting of human rights defenders and Internet activists, who are prisoners of conscience, and other similar topics.

The workshop concluded after the speakers directed an appeal in which they called on everyone to take joint actions to protect the right to freedom of expression on and off the Internet in the whole Middle East and North Africa region.