His own personal website censored by government, his car vandalised, and his supporters’ initiatives blocked. Yet, he found a unique way of circumventing the censorship. He transferred all the content from his website and from many other websites which were also censored, placed them on a central portal, and made it accessible via Alkasir – a free tool with an integrated browser that allows citizens to circumvent government control.
This is the story of Walid Al-Saqaf, a participant in this year’s Internet Governance Capacity Building Programme. Walid is a programmer from Yemen, who continues to fight for freedom of expression, especially in oppressed countries. He developed Alkasir, and founded the Yemen Portal, a news portal dedicated to Yemen.
Censorship is still a reality in many countries. Yet many activists work tirelessly to curb censorship and make their voices and the voices of citizens heard. We need no reminding of the media jihad during the Arab Spring, which saw thousands of protestors use the Internet to tell the world what was really happening on the ground. At the same time, activists like Walid have served as an inspiration to encourage people to fight for their freedom of expression.
Walid’s work did not go unnoticed. In 2010, he was awarded the Democracy Award by Orebro University in Sweden, where he is now pursuing his PhD. In 2010, Walid delivered a TED talk to describe his work and the tool he invented. Today, he is one of 12 ‘outstanding individuals’ to be chosen as TED Senior Fellows.