CAIRO: A press freedom group is questioning the legitimacy of Egypt’s right to host an internet conference during which security, openness and privacy issues is discussed.
The Sinai resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh is hosting the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) which opened Sunday and continues until Nov. 18.
“Egypt’s legitimacy to host such a meeting is questionable as it has repeatedly been guilty of violations of online free expression, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement issued last week.
“It is astonishing that a government that is openly hostile to internet users is assigned the organization of an international meeting on the internet’s future.
“Egypt is one of the enemies of the internet and if internet governance requires a degree of regulation, it should be of a liberal nature and not the kind that the Egyptian government would like to impose, RSF added.
The IGF describes itself as a “multi-stakeholder policy dialogue instituted after the 2006 Tunis meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
Sharm’s meeting is entitled “Internet Governance: Creating Opportunities for All . In addition to security, the meeting is discussing openness and privacy, access, diversity and internet governance issues as well as managing critical internet resources.
RSF says it finds it “surprising and disturbing that one of the “enemies of the Internet is hosting the meeting.
RSF goes on to list “four reminders of Egypt’s readiness to censor the Internet in the past two weeks alone , citing the overnight detention and beating of Mohamed Adel and Amr Osama who were arrested after writing “no to inherited rule on a wall in downtown Cairo.
While Adel and Osama are bloggers, the detention was not related to their online activities.
RSF also mentions that charges have been dropped against police officer Ashraf Aglan and his brother Ahmed, who blogger Wael Abbas accuses of breaking into his house and assaulting him.
While the assault was not connected to Abbas’ online activities, local NGO the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) criticized the closure of the public prosecution office investigation into the assault on claims of lack of evidence.
The recent decision banning Ayman Nour from traveling to the US is also mentioned in the RSF statement, as is the fact that RSF have received no response to a letter they sent to President Hosni Mubarak requesting the release of blogger Kareem Amer, who was imprisoned for his online writing in 2003 after Al-Azhar University pressed charges against him for allegedly inciting sedition, and insulting Islam and the Egyptian President.
“His release would have been seen as a sign of support for free expression, RSF says.
In March RSF ranked Egypt among a list of 12 countries which systematically repress internet users.