Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Knowledge Gap | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Numerous unrelated events have served to demonstrate the depth and width of the knowledge gap between a broad segment of Internet users, censorship bodies and states. This gap, which takes on sharp and sometimes amusing turns, proves that the law in most Arab and undemocratic regimes is incapable of apprehending the variables of the information revolution.

Among the events that could lead to this conclusion is the ongoing battle between a Sudanese newspaper [‘Akhir Lahza’] and a Sudanese website based abroad [US-based sudaneseonline.com]. The newspaper scathingly attacked the website for publishing views that questioned the existence of God and advocated for the rights of homosexuals, furthermore calling upon Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) to arrest the website’s editor so that he may be brought to justice in Sudan.

The editor’s only response was to threaten any person trying to tamper with or damage his website by warning that they would be subjecting themselves to danger. Of course, Sudanese clerics have declared their opinions, calling upon the ‘righteous Muslim computer engineers’ to immediately destroy the website. This matter is pending discussion in the Sudanese parliament, which may issue a decision to block the site and ban browsers from accessing it. This would mean that the issue will not come to an end.

In close proximity to Sudan, a group of activist Egyptian Bloggers have set up an online film festival, similar to the upcoming Cairo International Film Festival; however, they have selected films that focus on the theme of torture practices in Egyptian prisons. The organizers have even offered an absurd virtual prize that they refer to as the “golden whip” to be awarded to the most abominable abuse of detainees.

The aforementioned news items are indications of the development of proactive journalism in our societies through providing direct interaction between the source of publication and the readership. However, the two parties comprising the media equation or confrontation; namely, the publisher and receiver, have been subjected to confrontations and clashes.

The crucial aspect remains to be that states fail to implement the law on electronic media; it is not controlled by social, legal or technological restrictions and censorship. Since the laws cannot adapt to the variables of the information revolution, they become arbitrarily inclined when dealing with the outcome of modern means of communication.

Notwithstanding, the objections raised when a reporter (whether working in a newspaper of on television) is sentenced to imprisonment, it still remains to be a matter that is within limits and has mechanisms that are directly followed  however, to arrest a Blogger is absolutely arbitrary.

Under what laws are Bloggers sentenced to imprisonment or are websites blocked?! In the case where an individual is the means of media, such as the case with Bloggers, it becomes increasingly difficult to subject them to a clear system. This is especially since electronic journalism as a whole is the absolute expression of individual freedoms that were ‘toppled’ from our societies!

Our laws continue to fail to a shameful extent when it comes to having comprehensive knowledge of the variables of modernity and information. This is related to ignorance and extremism on the one hand, and an unrestrained desire to exercise censorship on the other.