Inside the Middle East - Blog
November 30, 2007
Blogging and brutality
He is the first ever blogger to receive the prestigious Knight award by the International Committee of Journalists.

He says his blog has generated awareness of police brutality in his native Egypt thanks in large part to the video file-sharing site YouTube, where he posted cell phone video of alleged prisoner torture.

But YouTube suspended Wael Abbas' account, citing its policy of prohibiting "inappropriate content on the site," adding in a statement to CNN that it is the YouTube community that "effectively polices the site for inappropriate material."

YouTube didn't expand much on this explanation, but some bloggers and observers are worried that the removal of Wael Abbas' material came as a result of pressure from the Egyptian government, unhappy that this 33-year old blogger, armed only with a computer, has managed to bring worldwide attention to police brutality in Egypt.

Critics say you can still access very disturbing torture video on Youtube (type "torture" in the search box and you will see for yourself); and that Abbas' material has been on the site, unchallenged, for several years -- so why remove it now?

CNN spoke to Wael Abbas after his YouTube account was suspended:

"We managed to direct the attention of the people to something that was taboo that was never discussed before," Abbas told CNN in a telephone interview from the United States. "We were able to send two officers recently to prison ... in the trial. Because of one of these videos that was used as evidence in the trial."

YouTube said it had no further comment beyond a statement it issued a few days ago.

Decide for yourself.

Our own Aneesh Raman spoke to Wael Abbas last month for Inside the Middle East. You can watch his report here.

-- From CNN Anchor and Reporter Hala Gorani

Update:

Wael Abbass' account has been reactivated by YouTube, who issued the following statement: "We are committed to preserving YouTube as an important platform for expression of all kinds, while also ensuring that the site remains a safe environment for our users. Balancing these interests raises very tough issues. In this case, our general policy against graphic violence led to the removal of videos documenting alleged human rights abuses because the context was not apparent. Having reviewed the case, we have restored the account of Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas -- and if he chooses to upload the video again with sufficient context so that users can understand his important message we will of course leave it on the site."

-- From CNN Anchor and Reporter Hala Gorani
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