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"Take your seats": an opportunity for young people in Lebanon to participate in and shape debates about internet governance

Maharat Foundation launched the "Take Your Seats" campaign to encourage Lebanon's youth to participate in the Internet Governance Forum for the first time.

Gamers use an application on their mobiles in Beirut, Lebanon, 17 July 2016
Gamers use an application on their mobiles in Beirut, Lebanon, 17 July 2016


This is a translation of an article originally published on on 13 November 2018.

To coincide with the Lebanese Internet Governance Forum, the Maharat Foundation has launched the campaign "Take your Seats" (#خدوا_مقاعدكم) to encourage young people to participate in the forum to be held on 28 and 29 of November 2018 at the American University in Beirut.

The forum offers young people an opportunity to take part in and influence discussions about internet governance featuring many people interested in the issue.

In the following video, people were asked about their thoughts on internet governance. They expressed various opinions. These included being able to freely express themselves online and having easy access to an affordable and fast connection.

The campaign seeks to shed led on the following points:
● Protecting internet access at the lowest possible cost and with the best possible quality and speed within a national strategic vision.
● Protecting freedom of expression and information exchange on the internet and working to pass the laws necessary to protect activists, journalists and citizens from prosecution as a result of expressing their opinions on the internet.
● The necessity of protecting privacy and passing and implementing general policies to strengthen the protection of privacy and personal data.
● Involving all interested groups in internet governance from the public and private sectors, academia, civil society and the tech sector.

Maharat has produced a series of reports collecting people's opinions regarding access to information, expression, privacy and participating in internet governance. These reports also show the main challenges and solutions which must be discussed during the forum.

The poor quality of internet services is an issue which unites Lebanese people from all regions and sectors. From the cost of the service to internet speeds, not forgetting the infrastructure which users often complain about, it is clear that the sector is in need of development so that a consistent and high-quality service can be provided to all users on one hand and to facilitate the work of companies, institutions and individuals on the other.

In the following video, participants were asked what they thought of Lebanon's internet. They mostly agreed that it is too slow while being too expensive. Others said that it's the least of their worries given the country's many problems.

The Lebanese are interested in participating in taking major decisions in general and also demand to participate in internet governance, especially since this issue requires the participation of the people generally, including citizens, activists, specialists and governmental bodies.

Is it a crime to express an opinion? Of course not, however this year Lebanon has seen increasing numbers of activists being detained or summoned to security offices as a consequence of comments or views posted on social media. It has therefore become essential to pass clear laws protecting activists' and journalists' freedom of expression.

The idea for the event was born in early 2018 when a preparatory meeting was held by a group of internet governance specialists who established the first forum for internet governance in Lebanon. This meeting defined the essence of the forum and its goals and shed light on the importance of the internet in producing sustainable development and pushing Lebanon towards greater stability and freedom.

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