Trolling women’s groups, digital privacy threats, Syrian disinformation and… “normal rainbows”?

Gazans light candles during a vigil in honour of slain Palestinian ‘Al-Jazeera’ journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Gaza City, 26 May 2022, MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

Across the region: privacy threats, disinformation campaigns, Instagram troll armies, and biased algorithms

About 69% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip support a Palestinian law to protect privacy and personal data, including electronic data, according to a recent survey conducted by IFEX member the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media (7amleh). The results support the findings of a report by the digital rights organization examining how Palestinians’ right to privacy and the protection of personal data is subjected to ‘negligence and exploitation’ by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Growing calls to end impunity

Israeli forces were behind the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May, concluded the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) after an independent investigation. The findings spurred continued calls by rights groups for Israel to be held accountable for the journalist’s killing, and ending impunity for crimes against all Palestinian journalists.

‘Rainbow hunting’ in MENA

Several governments in the region cracked down on Pride month events or symbols perceived to be supporting the LGBTQI+ community. In Kuwait, the government condemned tweets by the US embassy in recognition of the month, while the country’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry published infographics on social media to help citizens differentiate between products bearing a “normal rainbow” and the LGBTQI+ rainbow, in an effort to aid in the removal of offending products. Saudi Arabia saw a similar campaign initiated to seize rainbow-coloured toys and clothing from shops, in addition to bans on recent films deemed to be “promoting homosexuality”.

In Brief

Bahrain: Prominent Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja received the 2022 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders. Co-founder of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Al-Khawaja is currently serving the 11th year of a life sentence in Jau Prison for his human rights work. IFEX members have repeatedly called for his immediate release, in addition to other jailed prominent critics who have faced ill-treatment behind bars, including opposition leader Hasan Mushaima, and academic Dr. Abduljalil Alsingace who has been on a hunger strike for nearly a year.

Also Noteworthy

Check out States of Journalism, a new series by The New Arab exploring freedom, repression, and accountability in MENA and beyond, in global media landscapes.

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IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: info@ifex.org

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IFEX

IFEX

IFEX is a global network of organisations that defend and promote the right to freedom of expression and information. Email: info@ifex.org