Bloggers targeted in Arab Spring crackdowns

Survey shows current affairs bloggers arrested, fined, fired and hacked

Tags: BloggingHarvard UniversitySocial MediaSocial networking
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Bloggers targeted in Arab Spring crackdowns Google executive Wael Ghonim was detained by Egyptian authorities at the height of the country's political protests.
By  Claire Ferris-Lay Published  August 8, 2011

Seven percent of bloggers in the Middle East have been arrested and detained in the last year and nearly 30% have been personally threatened, a survey has found.

The Harvard University study, which polled 98 bloggers across the Middle East and North Africa, said 5% had been fired, demoted or reprimanded at work because of their blog while 18% had their website or personal accounts either hacked or attacked.

The political turmoil across the Arab world could be the responsible for the disproportionate amount of bloggers who have felt threatened, said the report. 

"The unusual sample populated by reform-minded bloggers and the timing of the survey - following a period of intense online activism and government attempts to quell this activity - contribute to these high figures," said the report.

"This makes it impossible to extrapolate to other populations and regions. Nevertheless, these reported figures are astounding from our perspective and highlight the vital importance security concerns for online activists," it added.

Social networking has become an integral part of daily life in the Arab world. Gulf states ranked among the biggest users globally of the video-sharing website YouTube and among the fastest growing users of Facebook and Twitter.

Thousands of anti-government protestors across the Arab world have used social networks to organise demonstrations promoting several Arab governments to block the sites.

Google executive Wael Ghonim was detained by Egyptian authorities and kept blindfolded for two weeks at the height of Egypt's protests that toppled the country's President Hosni Mubarak when it was discovered he had organised protests over the internet.

When asked about their perceptions of the biggest threat to bloggers in their country half of those polled said it was the threat of being arrested and personal threats.

More than 80% of bloggers polled said their blog coverage of news, politics and human rights while around half classified their writing as critical of the government.

The majority of bloggers said they used Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail for their own online activities.

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