Cybercrime Laws in the Arab World

Policy Paper
Analysis22.12.2019
ARIJ

In the past few years, numerous countries in the Arab World have enacted or updated existing laws to counter cybercrimes. While such laws are intended to govern and perhaps prevent cybercrimes, they often constrict or limit one’s freedom of expression.

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, in cooperation with its partner Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), is committed to addressing this topic in the Arab Region. By publishing a joint policy paper, we address the topics of press freedom and the freedom of expression in the Arab World.

This year’s Policy Paper, entitled “Cybercrime Laws in the Arab World” was conducted together with Jordanian Media Expert Yahya Shuqair, and delves into the impacts of the Arab World’s cybercrime laws on the freedom of opinion and expression.

Abstract:

The Internet is the most participatory form of communication in history.

Digital media has provided an unprecedented opportunity in history for fragile, marginalized and voiceless communities to express their views and communicate with others. 

The number of smartphones is more than the population of most Arab countries, and each citizen has more than a smart phone connected to the Internet. 

The ICTs (internet communication and technology) revolution has brought enormous benefits to humanity, but it has also provided a new avenue for misusing them to commit crimes such as money-laundering, profiteering, drug dealind, gambling or crimes like defamation, incitement to violence and hate speech. 

The misuse of this medium and its derivatives - social media platforms- is carried out by a few users and should not obscure consideration of its great benefits. 

Because of its power and influence, the new media has become a subject of discussion in most countries with the aim of controlling its content and what should be published. 

Arab governments have confronted this “freedom technology” by reactive vs. proactive response approaches and have viewed the ICTs revolution as a challenge to their authorities rather than an opportunity. 

13 Arab countries have enacted separate legislations to deal with cybercrime, while the rest apply general rules to these new crimes. 

Most of these laws don’t meet the international standards of freedom of expression and they go beyond legitimate restrictions in democratic systems to impede dialogue and curb freedom of expression. 

Download the Policy Paper to learn more. Article currently only available in Arabic.