Wael Abbas’ YouTube channel suspended [UPDATED – 29 Nov 07]

Posted on November 22, 2007 by Sameer Padania

News just in from Hossam El-Hamalawy…:

I’ve just received the following message from blogger and friend Wael Abbas…

disaster: youtube disables my account claiming there were complaints about my police torture videos!!!

This is un-bloody-believable. YouTube has just disabled probably the most important channel for the Egyptian blogosphere. Wael’s videos have been central in the fight against police brutality, and YouTube should be proud the Egyptian anti-torture activists have been using its channels in the current War on Torture…

Wael’s channel is, at the time of writing, still suspended. Clicking on any of the videos he uploaded results in the following message:

“This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.”

Whether it’s only Wael’s account, or others too, now several videos showing police brutality embedded on the Hub from YouTube are no longer playing – including this one, this one, and this one, and more here, here, here, and here. Most of these clips have been propagated far beyond Wael’s own YouTube account, so it’s not really a question of stopping these videos from circulating. Only last week, Wael received an award from the International Center for Journalists in honour of his work to promote and advance human rights in Egypt.

Whatever the reason – a misunderstanding, a systematic campaign, something else entirely – it shows how vulnerable human rights-related media content can be in the online environment, and that the minimal extra work of uploading human rights media to dedicated sites like the Hub, or the Internet Archive, rather than just embedding it from other sites, is clearly worth it.

UPDATE on 27 November 2007:

Since this happened, I’ve been in contact with YouTube to find out why Wael’s account was suspended, and will post an update when I receive one. The Guardian’s Brian Whitaker also reported the story (one commenter mentions the Hub) and now Reuters has covered the story too:

Elijah Zarwan, a prominent blogger and activist in Egypt, said he thought it was unlikely that YouTube had come under official Egyptian pressure, and was more likely reacting to the graphic nature of the videos.

“I suspect they are doing it not under pressure from the Egyptian government but rather because it made American viewers squeamish,” he said. “But to shut them down because some people might find the truth disturbing is unconscionable.”

UPDATE on 29 November 2007:

Nothing to report from YouTube yet, but increasing speculation/coverage in the blogosphere: Amira Al-Hussaini at GV (pt/ar/de), Kevin Anderson at The Guardian (my comment here), and Stan Schroeder at Mashable.

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