June 17, 2024

Advancing Digital Growth

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Contesting the Digital Space: The Role of Laws and Tech Policy in the MENA Region

4 min read

As the digital landscape of the Middle East and North Africa continues to evolve, so do the legal frameworks and corporate policies governing the space. In recent years, tech companies have at several times failed to effectively protect the integrity of the information environment through censorship, over-moderation of content, and amplification of disinformation, often at critical moments when reliable information-sharing is urgently needed, including most recently as events are unfolding in Israel and Palestine. Laws that restrict media, online expression, and information-sharing have been introduced in Tunisia, Iraq and Jordan in the last year, and space for free expression and press coverage continues to narrow in other MENA countries across the region where journalists, comedians, and everyday citizens are arrested and interrogated for their commentary online. New legislation on the online space and changing policies of tech giants will further shape the digital environment and affect fundamental rights for years to come, particularly in the areas of freedom of expression, political participation, assembly, privacy, and countless other affected rights. 

Understanding the implications of new digital rights legislation and fast-moving tech policy is crucial. The MENA region is diverse, with complex social, political, and economic dynamics, and varying degrees of digital rights and freedoms, which are almost non-existent in some countries. What do the most recent laws and policies governing the digital space in MENA entail, and what role do they play in the broader digital environment of the MENA region? What burdens do these tech policies and pieces of new legislation place on human rights advocates and civil society amid worrying trends of repression and increasing restrictions on speech across the region? 

On Tuesday, October 31, 2023, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) hosted a virtual panel discussion on the intersection of the law, tech policy, and digital rights across the MENA region. In a conversation moderated by TIMEP Executive Director Mai El-Sadany, panelists Mona Shtaya (TIMEP), Marianne Rahme (SMEX), Lamine Benghazi (TIMEP), and Hayder Hamzoz (INSM), with diverse backgrounds in law, human rights advocacy, and technology, unpacked various aspects of the evolving digital rights landscape, including the context in which these pieces of legislation emerge and new policies are formed, considering the unique challenges posed by the MENA region’s socio-political landscape, and the potential impacts on citizens’ rights and freedoms. 


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