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Regulation of online media should come from within sector

By Hani Hazaimeh - May 21,2013 - Last updated at May 21,2013

AMMAN — Media freedom activists on Tuesday said the government should not impose restrictions on online media, stressing that the outlets should take the initiative and regulate the sector.

During a session on Internet regulation and its implications on press freedom, speakers at the International Press Institute’s (IPI) 62nd World Congress, which concluded in Amman on Tuesday, said official regulatory attempts at the local and international levels pose a threat to press freedoms.

The congress was organised by the IPI in cooperation with the Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists, with the participation of hundreds of journalists from across the world.

Controlling the flow of news, they said, has become impossible in light of the technological revolution.

Speaking at the session, Daoud Kuttab, director general of the Community Media Network, said the public is too dependent on the Internet.

“The public has the right to [access] information, and it’s the media’s role to keep the public posted on local and international developments,” he said, stressing that governments should have nothing to fear from the media.

Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that regulation does not necessary mean censorship, adding that a recent survey showed that 25 per cent of Arabs said they were against all forms of censorship.

She also highlighted that a survey of 9,693 adults in eight Arab countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE) from Northwestern University’s Qatar campus found that 61 per cent of respondents believe that “people should be able to express their opinions online, no matter what those opinions might be”.

“Internet regulation does not definitively mean censorship, but it can refer to a number of things such as the control of domain registration or intellectual property,” York said.

“At a time when governments around the world are cracking down on the Internet, it is heartening to see such widespread support of free speech online,” she noted.

But she stressed that despite widespread opposition against censorship, a majority of respondents expressed support for tighter regulation of the Internet.

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