July 21, 2005
Secret Dubai Diary Blocked by the UAE
One of 'Aqoul's contributors, secretdubai, now has firsthand experience with UAE's strict internet censorship practices. Her blog, Secret Dubai Diary, was apparently blocked by UAE's Etisalat internet provider after she published a (rather funny) poem based on Gilbert & Sullivan.
The resulting furor has been picked up by local news:
Secret Dubai Diary, a weblog that examines UAE life from an occasionally ironic perspective, was blocked for visitors using Etisalat servers on Sunday.
"I have never heard or read of a Dubai blog being blocked before," says Adnan Arif, an award-winning UAE-based blogger. "Out of all the UAE-based blogs it is the most interesting. It is probably the first blog to hit on a formula that works for local readers."
Having built up a bit of online wasta with her cleverness and knack for storytelling, secretdubai's international readers have launched an email campaign to convince Etisalat that Dubai, a self-proclaimed world-class city, does not need this kind of negative publicity. For those of you who wish to jot down a few words for Etisalat's edification, here are the addresses:
Now I don't know who exactly prepared this form letter, but feel free to use it in your emails:
I write in support of secretdubai.blogspot.com. Please know that the world is watching and that I urge you to stop blocking this website. I also urge both you and the Dubai government to take no further action against Istara, the person responsible for this blog. While you may believe this is a trivial matter, I assure you that it is not. Freedom of expression is an important principle, even when it is the freedom to express humorous Gilbert & Sullivan parodies. Please reconsider your decision and re-instate secretdubai.blogspot.com.
This situation touches on the broader issue of media that can no longer be fully controlled by authorities in a given jurisdiction. Internet censorship occurs in varying degrees across MENA, often accompanied by surveillance (e.g. Egypt, which does not censor but certainly monitors). A good topic to discuss further, but it's 1AM and I have a day job.
PS - Secret, my offer to migrate your old content to a new blog on aqoul.com still stands.
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A badge of honor I suppose. I hope this is the extent of the blowback.
Posted by: Simon W. Moon at July 21, 2005 11:05 AM
Plus, I'm sure you are aware that there are a number of pro-press freedom organizations that might take interest in a censorship issue such as this; I can dig up some names later if you want, but a) I'm not sure how much of an issue you want to make of this; and b) I have a day job too (it's lunchtime right now). You know where to find me.
Posted by: Eva Luna at July 21, 2005 02:46 PM
Hello all - I have been overseas for the duration of the whole thing, and apparently it's now unblocked. According to one guy the saga was picked up by the Harvard law school cyberlaw site.
Anyway, there's been a prominent link there to Aqoul throughout, so hopefully it might have driven some traffic this way.
Posted by: secretdubai at July 26, 2005 09:10 PM