Yesterday afternoon, Twitter user Raja Farah was busy researching late Lebanese politician Habib Pasha Saad when he stumbled on a page that wouldn’t open.
The notification as to why that particular website was unaccessible was a simple prompt: This website is banned as per the Lebanese ministry of Telecommunications. The above screenshot is what he got.
Using modern technology, which seems to have escaped our ministry of telecommunication, I managed to access the website in question. It turned out to be a directory of people: trying to build family trees, connect with relatives you may not know, etc. There was nothing more to it and definitely nothing less since it was pretty bland as it is. And yet, the website was banned. I tried to access it using a different ISP and the website would refuse to load even though my internet connection worked quite well.
The page Mr. Farah was trying to access had nothing striking as well. I managed to procure the following screenshots of its content. As you can see, there’s simply nothing there.
Yesterday as well, it was revealed that another website was blocked as well, pertaining to the Mansour Labaki scandal. You can check out the details regarding it here. The Mansour Labaki website also has next to no shocking content. It provides next to nothing new on the case; it doesn’t give any new information, it doesn’t give any proof as to what the man did. It is, however, not accessible for anyone whose IP address is Lebanese.
Ladies and gentlemen, it seems we have more things to worry about when it comes to censorship in Lebanon than the banning of movies, books and possibly some music. It was only recently that they removed two movies out of the Beirut Film Festival because they didn’t fit with the moral code they want to enforce on all of us. But we now have another big brother watching over our heads in order to make sure we get “proper” exposure: our ministry of telecommunications.
I remember well when that same ministry made itself the knight in shining armor fighting for my rights as a citizen to have my data remain private from security personnel who wanted to use it to fight terrorism. But there are other rights that pertain to me, as a citizen, which seem to be trampled on left and right. What right does anyone have to grant or restrict access to any sort of information to me? Isn’t this a violation to one of my fundamental rights as well?
How many websites already exist that we can’t access because someone out there decided that we had inadequate intellect to handle their content? What criteria is followed to decide that we, as a Lebanese population using our dismal and detrimental internet services, should not be allowed to access this website and not the other? What right does the minister of telecommunication, or whoever decides these things, have in order to decide whether a website should or should not be allowed to the general population?
They tell us day in day out about how our internet and telecom services have improved recently. They brag about 4G, about prices dropping and whatnot. We have faster internet to access less and less websites. It starts with the ones I listed here, but who knows where this will go?
We have 4G and better 3G, supposedly (the reception in my hometown would beg to differ). But bringing in 4G phones into the country, or any phone that you want, for that matter is simply going to hell and back (link) with regulations upon regulations whose only purpose is to make your life as an irrelevant citizen harder while not making a dent in the business of those who’re supposedly targeted by these rules.
This isn’t about politics. I couldn’t care less who’s the current minister of telecom, who was before him or who might come after him. As I look at this, a clear pattern unfolds in front of me: the supposed advancements in the telecom sector we are having are coming at the expense of my personal freedoms as a consumer and as a citizen. The more we’re “advancing,” the more we crave for how things were before all this “improvement.” True advancement is giving people choices. It’s giving them full access to everything they need to formulate opinions. At this rate, I’d say take back your 4G and give me those choices for that is true advancement.