YouTube censorship roils Libyan blogosphere
By Jamel Arfaoui for Magharebia in Tunis — 02/02/10
Bloggers in Libya recently tackled a variety of topics, including the social cost of tribalism and the controversial decision to block access to YouTube by domestic internet subscribers.
Blogger Naji launches an attack on those he considers new extremists for clinging to the mentality of tribalism. "Europe and the West have completed their exploration of the moon and are starting to look to Mars and Saturn, while we're still immersed in tribalism", he writes. "This state of affairs has affected civilisation and blocked the educated class and scientific competency through this tribal and familial prejudice. Even if my cousin is ignorant, and I know it between me and myself, he's better than anyone else who is expert and qualified."
"This is the Jahiliyya (pre-Islamic) era that has returned to us, with some of its abhorrent scenes," adds the blogger. "This path will only lead us to blind extremism and make us walk in the same vicious circle while people around us are making progress. In the meantime, we're overflowing our streets and lanes and other places with abominable tribalism and partiality that can go as far as blind extremism that divides and ruins more than you can imagine."
In her turn, blogger Ghaidaa Touati writes that a move to block YouTube by Libya Telecom and Technology (LTT) "is a dangerous indicator of the deterioration of freedom of expression. It will drag Libya backwards in terms of freedom of expression in the country."
The blogger fears that "this blocking will soon include Libyan blogs," and calls for "kicking off a media campaign rejecting the measure, which is part of the oppression of freedoms and violation of the rights to expression and freedom of opinion".
She cites the position of LTT as published on January 24th in Libya's al-Manara newspaper: "An informed source in [LTT] said in a special statement to al-Manara that the main reason behind denying users access to YouTube in Libya was to ease pressure on the internet by the users of the website inside Libya and to provide bandwidth to meet the provisions of service with ADSL users. In his statement, the source noted that LTT was committed to honouring the provisions of contracts signed by the company with large corporations in Libyan cities, which require LTT to provide certain bandwidth and high speed for users in those companies."
Meanwhile, blogger Bumedian believes that the blocking has several positive points, including protecting Libyan society from deviation. "Everyone is giving strange interpretations to the issue; some made an issue out of it and started talking about freedom and other similar topics," writes the blogger. "Many other people are wondering why the website was blocked and how, saying that it's a shock, as if we got up and found that we were denied air and oxygen."
"I support the blocking of websites if it involves public interest, yes, a very big interest," adds Bumedian. "Those who need YouTube to express their opinions can express their opinions as they did before the creation of YouTube, in whatever way it was. YouTube is not the optimal way to do that. Let's be objective; the website is wide open for all kinds of ideas, concepts, and all aspects and influences without any censorship."
In fact, Bumedian says he wishes for "greater censorship o f the internet and its websites, many of which have become a den of corruption and deviation for those who don't leave their homes".
"Is it true that life can't be lived without YouTube?" muses the blogger. "Or has it involved a lot of deviations? It's true that the website offers a lot of benefits and includes a lot of videos that I enjoyed watching. I even had a station there where I tried to find content that limits the flood of information directed towards users, but if blocking it involves greater benefit, then it's welcomed."
Naji also weighs in on the matter, writing about "Islamic YouTube versus YouTube, which is not committed to morals and values".
"Islamic YouTube has recently been launched; it's a clean website that matches the YouTube website, but doesn't allow any immoral videos that are contrary to the teachings of our Islamic faith to be uploaded," according to the blogger.
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