Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Victory for Civil Society!

Safadi Foundation USA commends the decision by the Lebanese Parliament to postpone the vote on a draft E-transactions law. The postponement of this bill for one-month represents a victory to civil society organizations in Lebanon, who responded in an organized fashion to educate the public, politicians, and other relevant stakeholders about the possible implications of this legislation. The online campaign showed the effectiveness of social media as a popular and rising force. At the same time, the issue highlights the broader debate regarding the use of technology in advancing democratic freedoms and good governance.

The draft E-transactions law prompted concerns this week by civil society organizations and the private sector in Lebanon. If passed, the bill would have enforced unchecked regulatory measures on the internet that stifle democratic governance and reduce the country’s friendly business climate. For more info about this law please visit the Social Media Exchange website.

In addition, news about recent efforts by the Government of Lebanon to enforce a 2002 telecommunication law that bans VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) tools such as Skype represent a worrisome turning point and undermines Lebanon’s freedoms. Based on the reactions by Lebanese, it seems many did not even know that such modes of communication were illegal in the first place until the government installed equipment last week that blocks most VoIP programs.

The lesson learned is that public awareness, open debate, and comprehensive oversight by all stakeholders are vital to maintaining a healthy democratic government. The actions by the many groups who cooperated to get the word out about the E-Transactions law and other restrictive measures on internet freedom in Lebanon show that progress is indeed being made when it comes to strengthening the role of civil society groups in Lebanon.

Safadi Foundation USA hopes that parliament will play a positive role in engaging citizens and addressing their concerns so that a revised law is passed that reflects the open and competitive nature of Lebanon’s environment and entrepreneurial community.

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