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Rwandas generally restrictive legal environment for traditional media could be applied to the internet, particularly given the lack of a fully independent judiciary. For example, the decision to ban the online version of Umuvugizi was based on vague charges of publishing divisive language,29 a category of expression that is criminalized by the Law on Discrimination and Sectarianism. This provision was also used to ban the print version of Umuvugizi, and is often invoked to silence government critics.30 Similarly, penalties for criminal defamation in print and broadcast media may be applicable to the internet, though they have sparked complaints from media workers and may be revisited and amended in the near future.Although many traditional journalists view the threat of imprisonment as a key constraint on their work, such punishment is rare for online expression. Idesbald Byabuze, a Congolese journalist and professor who was temporarily teaching in Rwanda, was arrested in February 2007 and held in detention for one month while awaiting trial on charges of Dominique Nduhura, Rwanda: Media Coverage of the Parliamentarian Elections (September 15, 2008), paper presented at the World Journalism Education Congress, Grahamstown/Rhodes University, July 2010, http://wjec.ru.ac.za/index.phpoption=com_rubberdoc&view=doc&id=96&format=raw.

Law on Media, Official Gazette.

Media Institute, Tabloid Website Blocked, IFEX, June 8, 2010, http://ifex.org/rwanda/2010/06/08/umuvugizi_website_blocked/.

Law No. 47/2001 on Prevention, Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Discrimination and Sectarianism, available at http://www.adh-geneva.ch/RULAC/pdf_state/Law-47-2001-crime-discrimination-sectraianism.pdf; Jennie E. Burnet, Rwanda, in Countries at the Crossroads 2007 (New York: Freedom House; Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), http://freedomhouse.org/template.cfmpage=140&edition=8&ccrpage=37&ccrcountry=167.

Law on Media, Official Gazette.

RWANDA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net segregation, sectarianism, and threatening national security for several articles he had written. These included a June 2005 piece about human rights concerns in Rwanda that was published on an overseas website. The charges were dropped after his release, but he was quickly deported from the country.32 Since 2007, there have been no other reported cases of legal or other harassment for online expression, possibly because most activities by opposition forces are carried out in foreign countries.

In a case that signaled the possibility of violence against print journalists creeping into the online sphere, in June 2010, Jean-Leonard Rugambage, an editor for Umuvugizi, the above-mentioned newspaper which was banned in April 2010 but continued to publish online, was assassinated in front of his home in Kigali. Rugambage was the last of the publications journalists to remain in Rwanda and was reportedly preparing to join colleagues in exile due to threats and intimidation.33 In November 2010, two individuals were convicted of the killing, claiming it was reprisal for acts of violence Rugambage allegedly committed during the 1994 genocide. However, fellow journalists expressed skepticism over the handling of the case, believing the murder was punishment for critical reporting on the government.Monitoring of online communications does not appear to be widespread. However, there have been several instances in recent years of e-mails, phone calls, and text messages being produced as evidence in trials; these were mostly obtained via low-tech methods of confiscating suspects mobile phones and computers rather than via service providers. There have been no reported cases of serious cyberattacks in the country. RURA has initiated a strategy to increase awareness of such threats among business owners and ordinary users. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Rwanda, in 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, March 2008), http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100499.htm; International Press Institute, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 8, 2008, http://www.freemedia.at/regions/africa/singleview/4140/.

Danny OBrien, Six Stories: Online Journalists Killed in 2010, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), December 17, 2010, http://cpj.org/internet/2010/12/online-journalists-killed-in-2010.php.

Journalists Killed in 2010: Jean-Lonard Rugambage, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), http://cpj.org/killed/2010/jean-leonard-rugambage.php, accessed February 12, 2011.

Aimable Karangwa, Cyber Security and CIIP (Kigali: RURA, n.d.), slides, http://www.rura.gov.rw/publication/Cyber_Security_and_CIIP.pdf, accessed November 22, 2010.

RWANDA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net SAUDI ARABIA 2009 POPULATION: 29.2 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Not INTERNET PENETRATION: 38 percent STATUS Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: No Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: Yes Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: Yes Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Not Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION The government of Saudi Arabia is credited with supporting the rapid expansion of the internet through consistent upgrades to its infrastructure. However, by implementing strict filtering mechanisms to block undesirable content, excessive monitoring of internet users, and detention and intimidation of online commentators, the government has also been responsible for making the country one of the worlds most repressive with respect to freedom of expression online.

Saudis first gained access to the internet on December 15, 1998. Ten years later, the number of internet users in the country had grown to 7.7 million.1 Today, there are 9.million users,2 making up about 38 percent of the total population. While in the early years the vast majority of Saudi users accessed the internet through dial-up connections,3 which were often slow and frustrating, only about half of the internet population still uses dial-up service, with the rest using broadband connections. Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), ICT Indicators in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2009 (Riyadh:

CITC, 2010), http://www.citc.gov.sa/NR/rdonlyres/ECC196FF-D3C1-4C88-B793685C96CA0309/0/ICTSectorinKSA2009English.pdf.


Internet Services Unit (ISU), Users Survey, King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology, 2006, http://www.isu.net.sa/surveys-&-statistics/new-user-survey-results.htm.

CITC, Internet Usage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Individuals (Riyadh: CITC, 2008), http://www.citc.gov.sa/citcportal/GenericListing/tabid/104/cmspid/{FD847314-8EAB-4A52-9B729470BC15320D}/Default.aspx.

SAUDI ARABIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net OBSTACLES TO ACCESS Internet penetration is highest in major cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, and in oil-rich Eastern Province. Residents of provinces like Jizan in the south and Hail in the north are the least likely to use the internet. The younger generations make up the majority of the user population; according to the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), older Saudis often lack the computer literacy to take advantage of the medium.Arabic content is widely available on the internet, as are Arabic versions of applications like chat rooms, discussion forums, and social networking sites. Broadband service costs riyals (US$72) a month on average,6 representing a sharp drop from the 2003 price of riyals (US$187) a month.7 Connection speed varies between 128 Kbps for DSL broadband users and 21.6 Mbps for High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) network users, depending on the service purchased. Connections are considered slow by some, in part because of excessive filtering, but overall infrastructure is not considered a barrier to access except in remote and sparsely populated areas.

According to the CITC, nine out of every ten users access the internet from home, while one-third, mostly working men, access the internet from their place of employment.About 16 percent of the user population frequents internet cafes, which offer a costeffective alternative. Saudis can also access the internet from their mobile telephones. While five years ago there were fewer than 20 million mobile-phone subscriptions, there are now 44.8 million, for a penetration rate as high as 175 percent.All forms of internet and mobile-phone access are available in the country, including WiMax broadband, third-generation (3G) mobile networks, internet via satellite, and HSPA technologies. Service for BlackBerry hand-held mobile devices was banned from August 1 to August 10, 2010, due to concerns that the authorities had difficulty accessing its encrypted messages,10 but the ban was lifted after the company agreed to provide the necessary information.11 There are roughly 700,000 BlackBerry users in the country.12 Major videosharing, social-networking, and microblogging sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are freely available, as are international blog-hosting services, though specific pages may be blocked.

Ibid., 56.

CITC, Internet Usage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Individuals.

ISU, Users Survey. CITC, Internet Usage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Individuals.

CITC, ICT Indicators in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2009.

Saudi Ban on BlackBerry from Friday, Al-Jazeera, August 4, 2010, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/08/2010844243386999.html.

Reuters, BlackBerry Agrees to Give Saudi Arabia Subscribers Codes, Al-Arabiya, August 10, 2010, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/08/10/116289.html (in Arabic).

Saudi: 48 Hours for BlackBerry Messenger Providers to Try a Suggested Solution, Al-Arabiya, August 7, 2010, http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/08/07/115958.html (in Arabic).

SAUDI ARABIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net The Internet Services Unit (ISU), a department of King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST), is responsible for managing the internet infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. All the retail internet-service providers (ISPs), government organizations, and universities obtain access through the ISU. The entity was established in 1998 and reports to the vice president of KACST. In addition to providing access to the internet, the ISU initially acted as a regulatory body. However, in 2003 the governance of the Saudi internet, including licensing issues, was relegated to the CITC. The CITC is also responsible for regulating the broader information and communication technology (ICT) sector in the country.

The Saudi internet is connected to the international internet through three dataservices providers, up from a single gateway in years past. These providers offer service to licensed ISPs, which in turn sell connections to dial-up and leased-line clients. The number of ISPs in the country has risen from 23 in 2005 to 53 in 2009. Broadband and mobile-phone services are provided by the three largest telecommunications companies in the Middle EastSaudi Telecom Company (Saudi Arabia), Etisalat (United Arab Emirates), and Zain (Kuwait). WiMax broadband, a technology that allows users to access the internet from any location using USB modems, is widely used in Saudi Arabia.

LIMITS ON CONTENT The Saudi government subjects internet content to strict filtering. Sites that contain harmful, illegal, anti-Islamic, or offensive material are blocked, as are those that carry criticism of Saudi Arabia, the royal family, or the other Gulf states. Material providing information about drugs, alcohol, gambling, or terrorism, and sites that call for political reform or are critical of the current social landscape, are also blocked. While the rules governing internet usage are clearly stated on government websites, allowing internet users to discern what is expected of them, the Saudi authorities often disregard their own guidelines by blocking sites that are not explicitly covered. The OpenNet Initiatives testing results showed that Saudi Arabia also blocks human rights websites like Article19.org, Saudihr.org, andHummum.net.13 Although the countrys internet access now flows through three nodesoperated by the Saudi Telecom Company, Integrated Telecom Company, and Bayanat al-Oula for Network Servicesinstead of a single node as in the past, the three data-service providers must all block the sites banned by the CITC.Filtering in Saudi Arabia takes place at the country-level servers of the three dataservice providers. These servers, which contain long lists of blocked sites, are placed OpenNet Initiative, Country Profile: Saudi Arabia, August 6, 2009, http://opennet.net/research/profiles/saudi-arabia.

CITC, Content Filtering in Saudi Arabia, http://www.internet.gov.sa/learn-the-web/guides/content-filtering-in-saudiarabia, accessed September 30, 2010.

SAUDI ARABIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net between the state-owned internet backbone and servers in the rest of the world. All user requests that arrive via Saudi ISPs travel through these servers, where they can be filtered and possibly blocked. Users who attempt to access a banned site are redirected to a page that informs them of the sites status, meaning the government is at least partly transparent about the content it blocks. However, the list of banned sites is not publicly available, and the government also responds to takedown notices from members of the public, who can alert the government to undesirable material.15 Members of the public have the opportunity to unblock sites through a similar system designated for this purpose.16 Once an individual submits a request to unblock a site by completing a web-based form, a team of CITC employees determines whether the request is justified. The CITC is believed to receive hundreds of such requests each day.

The CITC claims that the time lost determining whether a users site request should be blocked or allowed is not more than half a second. However, a survey conducted by the commission in 2008 showed that 33 percent of internet users in the country, particularly younger participants and women, found content filtering problematic.17 These users complained that filtering denied them access to a great deal of useful information and limited their ability to browse freely.

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