SANA’A, June 27 — (Yemen Portal)- Efforts to challenge the ban of Yemeni websites at court were welcomed yesterday by many online community members participating in the Global Voices Advocacy Workshop held in Budapest, Hungary, under the theme "Online Free Speech: toward a global anti-censorship movement." The one-day workshop was a prelude to the Global Voices Online Citizen Media Summit 2008, being held from 27 to 28 June and attended by more than 200 bloggers and online activists from around the world.
Walid Al-Saqaf, founder and administrator of YemenPortal.net, which is banned in Yemen, announced at the meeting that a number of blocked Yemeni websites have joined forces to lodge a lawsuit against the Ministry of Communication, in a bid to overturn the ban.
Al-Saqaf asked participants at the event for their support for the lawsuit, which is unprecedented in the region. Reacting to the participants' positive response, he said: "I am truly grateful for the overwhelming support for our cause in achieving justice for Yemeni websites in their struggle with the Yemeni authorities."
Dozens of news and opinion websites in Yemen have been banned without notice or warning by the country's state-owned and dominant Internet Service Provider Yemen Net. The move to take a government to court for banning websites had no precedence in the Arab world, but may not be without risks. "We risk intimidation, harassment, and in fact losing the case due to a biased judiciary. Yet, it is a challenge worth taking as it will reflect this issue more prominently in the mainstream media and highlight our struggle for justice," added Al-Saqaf.
During the same workshop and in order to present evidence about the banning of Yemeni websites, Nart Villeneuve, a researcher in Internet filtering working for the Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto in Canada, volunteered to develop a custom-made software to help detect censorship of YemenPortal.net in Yemen so as to support the lawsuit. Villeneuve expressed his willingness to back the cause of the blocked websites and take the government to court as it would resemble a pioneering effort in this field.
GV Advocacy encourages the diversification of censorship combating mechanisms ranging from technical, social, and legal, ensuring that no stone is left unturned in promoting freedom of expression online.
Al-Saqaf expressed his commitment to sending follow-ups and updates to GV Advocacy on how the legal proceedings in Yemen evolve and whether any of the websites blocked would be unblocked as a result of the legal proceedings.