General: Combating censorship for protection of human rights: GCHR commits to open and free internet

28.07.19

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) launches an alternative option to access its website where it is blocked. As societies are growing more dependent on access to content and information than ever witnessed before, internet censorship became a favoured strategy for governments in the Middle East in tightening their grip on human rights and freedoms. In targeting of human rights defenders and organisations, violations have been augmented by the crackdown on bloggers and journalists. This crackdown does not only take the form of detention, judicial prosecution and harassment of defenders, journalists and bloggers but also by denying the public access to their efforts and work that have triggered governments’ repression on them.

As the main concern, objective and mission of human rights organisations and human rights defenders is the protection and promotion of human rights, content and information are valuable assets to fulfil these ends. GCHR since its creation has been a platform that collates, advocates and celebrates the struggles and achievements of human rights defenders in the region. For this reason, GCHR’s website, one of its key channels of advocacy and engagement, has been blocked in several countries.

In June 2018, GCHR released a report entitled: “Mapping Cybercrime Laws and Violations of Digital Rights in the Gulf and Neighbouring Countries”. Findings of the report highlight the centrality of censorship and internet freedom circumvention tools in Middle Eastern governments’ efforts of combating cybercrime and strengthening cybersecurity.

In Bahrain, the government purchased internet censorship technology from the Canadian company Netsweeper in January 2016. The technology purchased allows the Bahraini government to block access to a wide range of websites that host content pertaining to different aspects judged to challenge the government e.g. human rights, freedom of religion, and news published by media outlets that are critical of the Bahraini government.

While in Kuwait, internet censorship was complemented by physical surveillance in internet cafes. Saudi Arabia codified and enacted laws that permit the government to censor any website it deems a threat to its security and stability which has been used to block access to numerous websites of civil society organizations such as the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Associations (ACPRA). 

Syria, on the other hand, extended its censorship efforts to even penalize Internet Service Providers for non-compliance with censorship decisions.

In August 2018, Egypt has enacted its Anti-Cybercrime Law which criminalises and penalises both content creators and netizens accessing this content. The Law legitimates excessive internet censorship, mainly targeting websites of human rights organisations.

This is a brief snapshot of governments’ extending internet censorship efforts. In its commitment to the right of free and open internet, GCHR recommends the use of free, open source internet censorship circumvention tools to maintain and advance this right.

If you are blocked from accessing open internet or the GCHR website, follow the directions below:

Web browser: Psiphon 2

Visit our web proxy at https://734734.info/ to access our website, and use the secondary address bar to access any content on the web.

Android and Windows: Psiphon 3

Install Psiphon for Android and Windows to tunnel all traffic and applications from your device through a secure tunnel to the open internet. You can download the software directly from Psiphon’s website here or by sending an email request to: gchr@psiphon3.com.