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Among the major examples are Jordan’s plans to establish a free IT zone in Amman, which will give sales and income tax breaks to the software companies and business development firms based in the zone.The zone is part of a strategy designed to increase the number of Internet users from 26 percent to 50 percent.Interestingly, while advocates in the region criticize the regimes for the repressive regulations, which limit freedom of speech online, some governments claim they arrest bloggers and online activists because they abuse what the regimes call “media freedom.” In Egypt for example, the authorities arrested a blogger in May 2009 under the accusation of "Exploitation of the democratic climate prevailing in the country to overthrow the regime." The Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information deplored the charges and described them as a black comedy.11 Another example of such a rift is from the Gulf countries, where the head of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom criticized Dubai Police for allegedly asking Google to censor You Tube.

Most incumbent telecom companies in North Africa are already in private hands, with exception of Algerie Telecom, the privatization of which has been postponed due to the global economic crisis.7 However, experts say telecom liberalization in the Middle East and North Africa still lags behind the rest of the world in terms cost and efficiency, a matter which does not encourage direct foreign investment.8 The Middle East and North Africa is one of the most heavily censored regions in the world.

Human rights watchdogs and free speech advocacy groups continue to criticize the media restrictions and repressive legal regimes, and over the past few years, a great number of bloggers and cyber-dissidents have been jailed.

In a list created by the Committee to Protect Journalists of the ten worst countries to be a blogger, four such countries (Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia) were from the region.10 The last few years have witnessed an increase in the debate over media and Internet censorship in the region.

Rifts between the censors and local and regional advocates of freedom of speech have intensified, and more voices continue to express concern about media regulations in the region.

It aims to increase employment in the sector and to boost the sector’s revenues from $2.2 billion in 2009 to $3 billion by end of 2011.1 In addition to existing regional hubs Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City, the United Arab Emirates launched a new content creation zone to support media content creators in the Middle East and North Africa.

The new Abu Dhabi-based zone aims to employ Arab media professionals in film, broadcast, digital and publishing.

The court dismissed the case in November 2008 without providing any explanation.

These examples and cases illustrate how the fight over access control is taking different shapes and forms, and also indicate that different players will continue the debate and challenge each other.

Note: a previous version of this profile is available at Middle East and North Africa, 2006-2007.

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