Yemen bans Maktoob to quell dissent

Access to Maktoobblog.com, which hosts more than 2,000 Yemeni blogs, has been barred.

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By  Dylan Bowman Published  March 29, 2008

Yemen has blocked part of the biggest Arabic website in the world, Maktoob.com, in the latest restriction of freedom of speech in the impoverished Arab country.

Access to Maktoobblog.com, which hosts more than 2,000 Yemeni blogs, has been barred by state-run internet service provider (ISP) Yemennet without any explanation, according to international web freedom organisation the Opennet Initiative.

OpenNet said "interestingly" users who attempted to access the site received a network error message instead of the standard blockpage, which is served when users attempt to access sexual content.

The move is expected to seriously hinder internet users in Yemen from blogging and reading blogs as Maktoobblog.com is one of the largest blogging communities in the Middle East and North Africa, it said.

Press freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders has condemned the move, accusing the government of using online censorship in a bid to silence criticism, which has been growing in recent months.

“The situation of the internet in Yemen continues to get worse,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

“Without access to Maktoob, internet users cannot post entries on their blogs and report news. [Yemen] President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s government is having a difficult time with a wave of social unrest throughout the country.

Yemen's Information Ministry has denied blocking the site, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to the information minister on 12 February requesting an explanation for the government’s Internet filtering policies. He did not reply. Internet users launched a campaign for the unblocking of Yemeni opposition websites on 15 February .

The group said earlier this month that the government has also blocked aleshteraki.net, the website of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party without giving any explanation.

The number of Web sites blocked in Yemen has increased in the past few months to include political opposition as well as independent Web sites and blogs. In response to this increase in Web filtering,

News aggregation site Yemenportal.net was also blocked in January, according to OpenNet.

Yemen has a history of restricting freedom of speech, especially when it involves criticism of the government.

Yemen is currently ranked 143 out of 169 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

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