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Gay websites censored

(RSF/IFEX) - Since early March 2004, Saudi authorities have blocked access to the website Gaymiddleeast.com, a news site for the Middle East's homosexual community. RSF has called on the Internet Service Unit (ISU), the agency responsible for the Internet in Saudi Arabia, to lift the ban on this and other similar websites.

The site was also blocked in June 2003, but the government lifted the ban one month later. The United States-based website 365gay.com has also been censored.

"Officially, filtering is only supposed to be applied to pornographic publications or those directly harming Islam," said RSF. "In fact, the Saudi Internet blacklist extends to other areas, from political sites to non-recognised Islamist sites and, of course, any publication relating in any way to sexuality. We condemn this extension of censorship, which represents a move towards reducing the country's network to an Intranet, similar to the situation in Burma or Cuba," the organisation said.

Gaymiddleeast.com posts news intended for homosexuals in 15 countries (Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen). Its focuses mainly on issues dealing with the persecution of homosexuals and does not post any information of a pornographic nature. 365gay.com, with which Gaymiddleeast.com is affiliated, also deals with homosexual rights.

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