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In April 2009, The International Federation of Journalists called for a radical overhaul of media laws in the Middle East, stating that the laws in most of the region’s countries still permit the jailing of journalists for undermining the reputation of the state, the president, the monarch or the religion.
Such laws have often been used to suppress reporting of corruption or scrutiny of government actions.9 This media environment created by authorities has been hostile to bloggers and online activism, resulting in a number of arrests across the region.
The law includes penalties of ten years in prison and a fine for Web site operators who advocate or support terrorism; three years and fine for financial fraud or invasion of privacy; and five years and a fine for those guilty of distributing pornography or other materials that violate public law, religious values and social standards of the kingdom.
Accomplices of the guilty parties and even those who are proven to have only intended to engage in unlawful IT acts can receive up to half of maximum punishments.29 Terms and conditions imposed by ISPs are also used to control access in some countries.
Wi MAX, for example, was commercially available by end of March 2009 in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, while operators in other parts of the region have started testing the service.4 Additionally, broadband markets are growing fast in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, and commercial 3G mobile services have been launched in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, and Tunisia.5 Demographic factors are also expected to contribute to the growth of Internet population.
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa continue to invest in IT infrastructure and media projects as part of their strategies to develop the local economies and create employment.Access control in the Middle East and North Africa is multilayered; governments and authorities use different measures to regulate Internet access and online activities.These measures include laws and regulations, technical filtering, physical restrictions, surveillance and monitoring, and harassments and arrests.It aims to increase employment in the sector and to boost the sector’s revenues from .2 billion in 2009 to billion by end of 2011.1 In addition to existing regional hubs Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City, the United Arab Emirates launched a new content creation zone to support media content creators in the Middle East and North Africa.The new Abu Dhabi-based zone aims to employ Arab media professionals in film, broadcast, digital and publishing.