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Suppressing Information is a Violation of Human Rights

Dear Dr. Ibrahim:

I would like to respond to the "Libyan citizen" who wrote "A Reply to the IT Wizard" on your website on August 27, 1999. This communiqué provides three reasons for denying Libyans free access to the Internet. I will respond to all three points.

First, it is important to say the following: All autocratic regimes, throughout the history of humankind, have considered education and knowledge as their Enemy No. 1. They have devoted, and continue to devote, a high percentage of national resources to the suppression of free thought. They wish to prevent the people they rule from learning the truth. Their goal is to deny everyone access to what is truly happening around the world. They want to prevent people from conceiving opinions of their own. Of course, these tyrannical regimes give different excuses for pursuing such oppressive policies.

Denying access to information and the truth is no way to raise children. If we teach our children correct values and ethical behavior and then let them make their own choices in life, their choices will be correct and responsible ones. It would be silly to prohibit knives in the kitchen simply because they could be used to hurt people. Otherwise, how will we prepare our food and procure nourishment to survive? It is not the object itself that is bad, but rather people's irresponsibility. If children learn what they have been taught and a parent is a good model for them, then they will be fine. To stifle children's free access to the world as a substitute for teaching them well would be a grave error in child rearing. Ultimate responsibility lies with parents and the way they raise their children. It is true that the potential exists for abuse of opportunities available on the Internet; however, the potential for benefit, for useful information exchange, far outweighs any damage the Internet could do.

We cannot raise our children in a cage, but this is exactly what Qaddafi wants to do to his subjects. In this case, the long-suffering Libyan citizens are the children, and the cage is the dark ages of disinformation in which Qaddafi requires them to subsist. We cannot tell our children only what we want them to hear, then put them out on the street after they grow up. How will they be able to cope with reality when we have filled them with nothing but fantasy? The fantasy we have trained them to believe will not coincide with the reality they will have to deal with their entire lives.

Denying people education and knowledge is a crime. It is a very destructive violation of human rights. But it is typical behavior among autocratic regimes. This fact is obvious when we examine the list of 20 countries classified as enemies of the Internet: Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Libya, North Korea, Iran, etc.--all are oppressive, autocratic, tyrannical regimes. These are backward regimes that obstruct national evolution and development merely for sake of retaining power and getting fat and rich off the misery of their people.

The first excuse the "Libyan citizen" gives for banning the Internet is the pervasiveness of pornography on line. This is merely a smokescreen intended to hide these autocratic regimes' true reason for banning the Internet. They are afraid of free access to information. The letter claims that Internet pornography will lead to national corruption. This is mere hypocrisy, because these countries are already full of corruption such as prostitution, drugs, etc. The rulers of autocratic regimes actually encourage such practices to mollify and stupefy the populace and keep them obedient. Such distractions help to quell any thoughts of rebellion.

The "Libyan citizen" states that no one will go to work once they have access to Internet pornography. What nonsense! People must work to survive, to earn money for shelter and food. Whoever heard of someone choosing sex instead of food? The "Libyan citizen" speaks as if he is dealing with stupid cattle instead of conscious human beings. People are capable of making their own intelligent decisions regarding the use of their time. They do not need to be guided by the dictates of rulers who pretend they are more enlightened than their subjects but really only wish to fatten themselves and their families at the expense of everyone else. The true motivation for banning the Internet is not fear of pornography, nor is it the spread of corruption. The real purpose is to deny people knowledge and education, to deny them their human rights.

The second excuse the "Libyan citizen" gives for banning the Internet is the danger of spying. This is ludicrous. If the CIA can spy on the Internet, then they can also spy on telephone lines or through any other means of communication. The Internet does not increase the avenues for spying, and even if it did, what is there to spy on? Again, this excuse is a smokescreen to hide a tyrant's real motives. The real motive is to deny access to knowledge and information--i.e. the truth--because truth will make the populace desire freedom. They will begin to ache for free elections, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of the press. The Internet represents the free flow of information, and this concept itself is antithetical to an autocratic regime. It is a major threat to Qaddafi himself.

The final excuse for banning the Internet is the cost. The "Libyan citizen" claims that the demand for computers will lead to debt larger than Jordan's. The letter implies that Jordan is in debt due to demand for cars and computers--i.e., because of the Western lifestyle. First of all, a lot of countries are in debt, including Iran and Saudi Arabia. Algeria, an oil-producing country, is in worse debt than Jordan, but this debt is not due to cars or computers. It is due to a number of factors too lengthy and complicated to enumerate here. Much of this debt is due to economic mismanagement, so, once again, the blame falls on national leaders, not on the people. This so-called fear of national debt is just another excuse to hide the real reason for preventing Internet access: fear of knowledge that might free the minds of the people and lead to revolution.

Qaddafi wants to stay in power forever, and he doesn't want to give anyone a chance to even think of overthrowing him. The Internet would create an atmosphere in which people could communicate, debate, and learn the truth. As we know, the weakness of the people is their own illusions. As individuals, they are powerless, but when they unite, through the power of knowledge, then their political power increases dramatically. With such power, knowledgeable people will be like an earthquake shaking the ground under Qaddafi's feet and changing history from chapter to chapter.

Qaddafi's behavior is not unique. All dictators, all autocratic regimes, do the same thing. As stated before, all the anti-Internet countries are autocratic regimes. None of them would profit from the free dissemination of information. Such free-flowing information could easily lead to dissatisfaction, dissent, and an uprising. The Libyan tyrant wishes to quell all possible challenges to the legitimacy of his dictates. This is the real reason for denying access to the Internet. Knowledge is the light of day, and ignorance is the darkness of night.

Long live Libya - victory to her dedicated sons!

Yousef Zuhdi

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