Tuesday, December 12, 2006

YouTube blocked, controversy follows!

"This site is blocked, because is does not comply with the cultural and social values of our country"

This is the kind of message that Jordanians, thankfully, don't have to put up with. Sure, there must be some blocked sites- to be honest I haven't heard of any recently- but all the most popular sites are accessible in Jordan.

It seems authorities have decided to monitor who accesses what, rather than prevent people from accessing certain sites. Blocking is a practice which causes an uproar and bad publicity.

YouTube has been at the center of such practices across our region.

This is what happened when Etisalat blocked access to YouTube in the UAE. It was shocking that the supposed beacon of media in the region was preventing its metropolitan, multicultural population from viewing the world's best shared videos!

An uproar followed in the press and in blogs; and the site has been unblocked recently.

Many other sites still remain blocked, but the majority of them are pornographic sites.

After all, the UAE is part of the Arabia Gulf, a traditionally conservative area. Imagine what kind of site blockage you'll get in Saudi Arabia! Which brings us to the latest story regarding Iran blocking access to YouTube.

For a country like Iran, it seems completely understandable and expected that a site like YouTube would be banned. After all, there are some 'mature' videos on it.

The message users in Iran get when trying to access the site is the following: "On the basis of the Islamic Republic of Iran laws, access to this website is not authorized".

But, one must wonder why on earth was Wikipedia, an Internet encyclopedia, blocked by Iranian authorities last week. Apparently, it was only temporary, but such erratic blocking practices have caused concerns amongst users that authorities are acting on certain complaints, prior to checking the authenticity of such complaints.

In fairness to Iranian authorities, only sites deemed to have offensive sexual content suffer from blocks, whereas Western news sites, which criticize the Iranian government are fully accessible. That is a fact worth noting.

But, on the other hand, a report by the Washington Post suggests that Iranian authorities blocked YouTube because of "videos from the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and other Iranian opposition groups". And, on a lighter note, other offensive videos include "Iranian pop music videos".

A study by censorship watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, says that the top 13 Internet censoring countries in the world are Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Egypt, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

So far, Jordan is not on the list. But who knows what will happen in the future!



At 7:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again it's the question of intellectual freedom. I think the right of everyone to seek or receive any kind or type of content or information without restriction is tricky if not foggy. In other words, I find censors are right when trying to use their power to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, especially when it comes to children and how to protect them from dangerous or disturbing ideas and information like some of the content at "YouTube". On the other hand, I find censors in the Middle East very stupid and prefer to keep burying their own heads in the sand instead of creating public awarness and enhancing critical thinking where people can take ownership of ideas and control of their own intellectual and moral lives by running quick questions and analysis..this content is good..this content is bad. Finally, it's a question of understanding literacy and intellectual freedom.

At 3:40 PM , Anonymous Hani said...

YouTube was blocked in Saudi Arabia, and so was flickr.com and Wikipedia...

But one morning, they decided to unblock them all and they have been running for a while now :)

At 8:55 PM , Blogger Zeid Nasser said...

Gentlemen! Thanks for the commentary.

I agree with Khaled's long and thoughtful comment. And I believe some things must be censored, but where do you draw the line?

As for Hani, I didn't know about Saudi Arabia... I'll put that in a future story about censorship... thanks.

At 11:00 PM , Anonymous child said...

good site


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