By Claire Ferris-Lay
Harvard poll shows 7% of Middle East bloggers have been arrested or detained in last year
Seven percent of bloggers in the Middle East have been
arrested and detained in the last year and nearly 30 percent have been
personally threatened, a survey has found.
The Harvard University study, which polled 98 bloggers
across the Middle East and North Africa, said five percent had been fired,
demoted or reprimanded at work because of their blog while 18 percent had their
website or personal accounts either hacked or attacked.
The political turmoil across the Arab world could be the
responsible for the disproportionate amount of bloggers who have felt
threatened, said the report.
“The unusual sample populated by reform-minded bloggers and
the timing of the survey – following a period of intense online activism and
government attempts to quell this activity – contribute to these high figures,”
said the report.
“This makes it impossible to extrapolate to other
populations and regions. Nevertheless, these reported figures are astounding
from our perspective and highlight the vital importance security concerns for
online activists,” it added.
Social networking has become an integral part of daily life
in the Arab world. Gulf states ranked among the biggest users globally of the
video-sharing website YouTube and among the fastest growing users of Facebook
Thousands of anti-government protestors across the Arab
world have used social networks to organise demonstrations promoting several
Arab governments to block the sites.
Google executive Wael Ghonim was detained by Egyptian
authorities and kept blindfolded for two weeks at the height of Egypt’s
protests that toppled the country’s President Hosni Mubarak when it was
discovered he had organised protests over the internet.
When asked about their perceptions of the biggest threat to
bloggers in their country half of those polled said it was the threat of being
arrested and personal threats.
More than 80 percent of bloggers polled said their blog
coverage of news, politics and human rights while around half classified their
writing as critical of the government.
The majority of bloggers said they used Facebook, Twitter,
and Gmail for their own online activities.