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The Internet

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Jon B. Alterman

From New Media, New Politics? From Satellite Television to the Internet in the Arab World
© 1998, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

INTRODUCTION


Few stories have gripped the world press as strongly as the spread of the internet in the 1990s. Sensing that the easy, instantaneous, and inexpensive exchange of text and pictures will be a powerful force in remaking the world in the late twentieth century, journalists have rushed to tout the promise of the new medium, at times exaggerating its current importance. The Arab world has joined in the global enthusiasm for the internet. It is available in almost every Arab country, and the number of users grows monthly. Every Thursday al-Hayat runs a full page on computer topics. PC Magazine's Middle and Near East Edition sells tens of thousands of copies. Thirty-four daily Arab newspapers maintain pages on the worldwide web, many of them post the complete text of their daily editions, and only one charges for the privilege of reading it. Nongovernmental organizations throughout the Middle East-charities, opposition political movements, and even Hizballah-have a strong internet presence, relying both on electronic mail (e-mail) and web pages to exchange information. An increasing number of Arab governments are also establishing a presence on the worldwide web; among the most active has been Egypt, with several web pages for the State Information Service, the presidency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a large number of additional government organs. Jordan has also been active establishing a web presence: Its internal security apparatus maintains a web page, as does Queen Noor.

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