Spotlight on the Inkyfada CyberAttack

 

After its publication of a Panama Papers report mentioning local politician Mohsen Marzouk, the Tunisian online magazine Inkyfada came under a cyberattack on April 4. Hackers attempted to manipulate the site’s content by publishing false information. Following the attack, the site’s managers took it offline to secure its servers, which went back online two days later.

 

In addition to the cyberattack, Inkyfada is facing legal threats as a result of its participation in the analysis and publication of the Panama Papers. After announcing that he would sue Inkyfada for criminal defamation, Marzouk eventually retracted his complaint against the site.

 

Leader of the Islamist Ennahdha party Rached Ghannouchi also threatened to take legal action against Inkyfada for mentioning his name “without justification” in a Panama Papers report on the company that owns Tunisian News Network, a local TV channel with close ties to his party. It is not clear if Ghannouchi has actually filed a complaint.

Access & Interference

 

  • ISIS has reportedly ordered residents of the Syrian city of Raqqa to remove TV satellite dishes before the month of Ramadan.

 

Free Expression & Censorship

 

  • Saudi Arabia continues to block the website of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), a rights groups that works to provide support to human rights defenders in the Gulf region.

 

Trials, Sentencing, and Judicial Harassment

 

  • Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism court sentenced journalist Alaa Brinji to five years in jail for tweeting in support of human rights defenders and of women’s right to drive.
  • Human rights volunteer Imad Abu Shamsiyyeh said he fears for his safety and that of his family after filming a video that shows an Israeli soldier shooting and killing a wounded Palestinian man as he was laying on the ground. The video was published online by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem, which documents rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.
  • A Mauritanian court upheld a death sentence against Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed for apostasy over a 2014 article he published online. The article was critical of Mauritania’s caste system. Mohamed has been jailed since January 2, 2014 and has just one appeal, to the Supreme Court, left.
  • Bahrain continues its assault on digital rights: In March 2016, a criminal court sentenced in absentia satirist blogger Hussain Mahdi, nicknamed Takrooz, to five years in prison for “insulting the king” on Twitter. Apparently, the king isn’t the only one in Bahrain with thin skin. Prosecutors received 61 complaints from the parliament against users for “insulting the legislature” between July 2015 and April 24, 2016. Meanwhile, activist Ebrahim Karimi was sentenced on April 1 to two years in jail for criticizing Saudi Arabia online, and on May 4 a high court confirmed that he must also be stripped of his citizenship, an increasingly frequent form of punishment in the Gulf. In another case, criticism of Saudi Arabia’s execution of 47 people earlier this year resulted in a one-year jail sentence for Saeed al-Samahiji.
  • On April 9, medical student and Jordan’s Democratic Popular Unity party member Haitham Ayed was released after being imprisoned for three days due to his activity on Facebook. (AR)
  • Nineteen Palestinian journalists remain behind bars; some are being held in administrative detention without charges being filed while the rest are accused of incitement using social networking sites. (AR)

 

Travel Bans

 

  • Khaled Ibrahim, co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, was banned from entering Jordan for the second time on April 25. He was detained overnight at Queen Alia airport, preventing him from participating in the EU Inter-Institutional Steering Group on Civil Society. He was also refused entry to Jordan in 2014. (AR)  

 

Advocacy, Policy & Law

 

  • While the trial of Egyptian free expression activists Gamal Eid and Hossam Baghat was postponed to May 23, IFEX issued a letter calling on the Egyptian government to end their “arbitrary and unlawful prosecution.”
  • Amnesty International launched an urgent action calling on UAE authorities to explain the arrest in Abu Dhabi of 43-year-old Jordanian journalist and poet Tayseer Salman al-Najjar last December 15, in connection with a Facebook post he wrote nearly a year and a half earlier during the Gaza conflict. Al Najjar has yet to be charged, and according to the rights group, “He may be a prisoner of conscience detained for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.”
  • Starting April 25, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies and partners launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtags #UPR25 and #Sudan to draw attention to Sudan’s human rights record in advance of its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council.

 

CyberPolicing & CyberWar

 

  • The U.S. military’s cyber command is targeting ISIS in a new campaign of cyberattacks aimed at disrupting the group’s use of new technologies to carry out a number of tasks including spreading their propaganda and attracting new recruits.
  • Arrests over activity on social network websites have been steadily increasing, especially since the recent creation of a Cyber Unit in the Israel Police, which is dedicated to monitoring and reporting the activities of Palestinians on social networks, especially Facebook. (AR)

 

Recognition & Solidarity

 

  • Reporters Without Borders Sweden awarded the Syrian citizen-journalist group “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently” its 2016 Press Freedom Award in recognition of their courage to report news despite attacks that have claimed the lives of some of their members in both Turkey and Syria. (EN) (AR)

 

From Our Partners

 

  • 7iber published an article about Apple’s encryption battle with the FBI. (AR)
  • AccessNow launched the global #KeepItOn campaign, to raise awareness about the negative  effects of Internet shutdowns. Fifteen shutdowns were documented in 2015, including in Algeria, Iraq, and Yemen.
  • EFF published “The Crime of Speech,” by Wafa Ben Hassine, a legal analysis of how Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia are using anti-protest, anti-cybercrime, and anti-terrorism laws, as well as articles against defamation in penal codes, to silence cyberactivists.
  • Global Voices published a dispatch from Western Sahara, where local media activists are using video to document human rights abuses against the Sahrawi people.
  • Social Media Exchange hosted (and livestreamed AR) ICANN’s Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Middle East Fahd Batayneh for a talk on IP addresses and Internet governance at a workshop entitled “Internet Behind the Scenes.”
  • The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) published a call for international solidarity with human rights in Sudan online and offline, in advance of the country’s formal review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

 

Digital Citizen is brought to you by Advox, Access, APC, EFF, Social Media Exchange, and 7iber.com. This month’s report was researched, written, edited, and translated by Afef Abrougui, Yusur Al-Salman, Jessica Dheere, Islam Khoufi, Courtney Radsch, Coraline Rasset, Elsa Saade, Kayssar Yaacoub, Sarah Yakzan, and Jillian C. York.

Photo by David Weekly, CC BY 2.0.