Report Names Top 10 Enemies of Internet Freedom
Report Names Top 10 Enemies of Internet Freedom
Round up the usual suspects.
Reporters Without Borders March 12 issued its "Enemies of the Internet" list which examines Internet censorship and other threats to online free expression in 22 countries. We're not talking network management issues here but, rather, the imprisonment of cyber dissidents, online news and information censorship and government-sponsored efforts to scramble or jam online content.
It's not a pretty picture. Twelve of the countries called out by Reporters Without Borders -- Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam -- have all "transformed their Internet into an Intranet in order to prevent their population from accessing 'undesirable' online information," according to the report.
Another 10 countries, including Australia and South Korea, have been been placed on the free press organization's watch list. Australia made the list for a draft law requiring service providers to provide two connections per household: one for adults and the other for children. Both connections would be subject to strict and private filtering. In addition, since 2001, Australian law has allowed an independent agency to intercept all suspect e-mails and to carry out independent investigations, including in the absence of any prior judicial authorization.
South Korea, one of the world's most-connected countries, made the Reporters Without Borders watch list for the January arrest of a blogger for having affected "financial exchanges in the markets" as well as the "credibility of the nation" because of articles he posted on one of the country's largest discussion forums. He is still being held in detention.
But those transgressions pale in comparison to how countries such as China, Vietnam and Syria deal with dissent coming from the Internet.
these countries distinguish themselves not only by their ability to
censor online news and information but also by their virtually
systematic persecution of troublesome Internet users," the report
states. "Not only is the Internet more and more controlled, but new
forms of censorship are emerging based on the manipulation of
Globally, a total of 70 cyber dissidents are currently in jail because of what they posted online. China is the world's biggest prison for cyber dissidents, followed by Vietnam and Iran.
A look at some of the world's worse Internet enemies.
10. Cuba: Suppresing the Tendency to Social Dangerousness
First, the good news: since Raul Castro took power it is no longer an offense to own a laptop computer or a mobile telephone. Now, the bad news: very few can afford to own a laptop computer or a mobile telephone. For those who can afford it, Cuban Internet users face up to 20 years in prison if they post an article considered to be "counter-revolutionary" on a foreign-hosted Web site, and five years if they connect illegally to the international network. In one such case, in 2007, journalist Oscar Sanchez Madan, correspondent for Cubanet in Matanzas province, was sentenced to four years in prison "for tendency to social dangerousness."9. Uzbekistan: Freedom to Inform the Public Has Been Cancelled
Karimov, who was re-elected head of state in 2007, exercises very tight
control over the Internet. Web sites
do not have to register with the authorities, but everything is
centralized and the government blocks access to most independent sites
that criticize its policies. State network, UzPak, has been the only
one in the country since 2005 and all access providers have to connect
via this network. The law
on media freedom, adopted in 2003, imposes a series of restrictions on
the circulation of news online. The law states the "freedom
to inform the public can be limited in the name of the protection...of
the community's moral values, national security and the country's
spiritual, cultural and scientific potential." The vague formulation of
these principles leaves wide scope for interpretation and for extensive
and abusive censorship.
8. Egypt: Your Papers, Please
the beginning of 2007, the government has stepped up its
surveillance of the Web in the name of the fight against terrorism.
Officials monitor information exchanged online and cybercafes have to
obtain a license from the telecommunications ministry under threat of
closure. Some cybercafe owners have said that they had been ordered to
note and file all their customers' identity card numbers. Large numbers
of people use these cybercafes that are under surveillance because the
charges are so much lower than that of individual subscriptions.
To connect to the wireless network, a customer has to provide a mobile phone number and some personal data such as identity card numbers, address and so on, which gives rise to concerns about freedom of speech.
7. Iran: Death to Bloggers
Iran leads the way in the Middle East in repression of the Internet. According to the Tehran
general's adviser, the authorities blocked five million Web sites in 2008. Since
2003, the government has a commission dedicated to
establishing a blacklist of Web sites seen as illegal, including
YouTube, Facebook and Orkut. A draft law from 2008 -- soon to be
approved -- doles out the death penalty for the "creation of blogs and Web sites promoting corruption,
prostitution and apostasy."
6. Saudi Arabia: Focusing on Islamic Immorality
Online exchanges are considered to be a factor in immorality. Posting a comment on a Web site deemed "immoral" by the authorities can lead to arrest. Security services and courts base judgments on vague and extremely broad notions of criminal law, which is easy to do when you have no written criminal code. Because of this, Web sites that promote exchanges between bloggers, such as virtual social networking sites such as MySpace and Tagged, are inaccessible in the kingdom. Certain sites allowing users to get around online censorship are also blocked, as is the Arabic version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. The government also bans any sites that have anything to do with sexuality in order to "protect citizens from content that is offensive or violates the principles of the Islamic religion and social norms."
Report Names Top 10 Enemies of Internet Freedom
title=15 Years-For Importing Modems}
5. North Korea: Censored Searches and Government Approved News Sites
The North Korean Internet operates like an Intranet that provides e-mail, a censored search engine, a browser and a few news sites carefully chosen by the government. The only available Web pages are approved by the authorities and come from the data banks of the Democratic People's Republic's three largest libraries. To get on the network, cyber cafe owners must obtain permission from the official Korean Computer Center which controls all online information. And then there's this from the Reporters Without Borders report: The regime launched its first mobile phone service in November 2002 but soon banned citizens from using it, confining this privilege to the military elite.
4. Burma: 15 Years in Prison for Importing Modems
Currently, only 0.1 percent of Burmese connect to the Internet inside the country. Government authorization is required to get an Internet connection at home and service providers charge prohibitive prices for membership. Burma's laws relating to electronic communications and the dissemination of news online are among the most dissuasive in the world with Internet users subject to very harsh prison sentences for criticizing the government. The law bans the import, possession and use of a modem without official permission, under threat of a 15-year prison sentence for "damaging state security, national unity, culture, the national economy and law and order." A total of 14 journalists and two bloggers are currently in prison in Burma.
3. Syria: There Is No Need for Proof
After China and Vietnam, the Syrian Arab Republic is one of the world's most repressive countries
towards Internet users. Surveillance and censorship are commonplace on the
Syrian Web. The Syrian Computer Society, the country's leading access
provider, can intercept e-mails to monitor
dissidents and the government declared in 2007 that Web site owners should keep personal details of authors
of articles and comments. The government sent a notice to
the same Web site owners telling them to make public the names of authors and
commentators contributing to their sites, under threat of closure of
their sites. The government added, "There is no need for proof to know that some
articles and comments are false and that some expressions conflict with
freedom of speech. Those who publicize them are guilty of defamation or
violating public morals." Skype, Facebook, Amazon and YouTube are all banned in Syria.
2. Vietnam: Suppressing All Online Activities That Harm National Interests
2002, Vietnam has equipped itself
with a cyber police force that filters "subversive" content and keeps
cyber cafes under surveillance. The government, a shareholder in all
access providers, follows the Vietnam law to the letter, which
dictates, "The state
must suppress all activities in the fields of culture and information
that harm national interests, destroy the personality, moral values and
lifestyle of the Vietnamese people." It is now illegal for a blogger to
post articles under another identity, and blogs can only carry strictly
personal information while being banned from putting out "press
articles, literary works or other publications banned by the press
law." As Vietnam Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Do
Quy Doan said, "Bloggers are supervised to prevent them from entering
illegality or putting out false information: criticizing the
fatherland, the work of constructing the country, denigrating and
damaging the honor and human dignity of an individual, and
organization, dividing the unity of the nation."
1. China: Leading the World in Repression of the Internet
According to Reporters Without Borders, the Chinese government has the "sorry distinction of leading the world in repression of the Internet." One of the world's most blatant censors, nearly 40,000 employees of the state and the party monitor files circulating on the Internet. The government filters news through the use of key words. These banned words can sometimes be replaced by asterisks and controlled by moderators before they are posted online. The largest blog platform used in the country is monitored by the information ministry with all the blogs on the platform easily controlled by the government if the site content is determined to be contrary to the Communist Party's principles. In 2008, nearly 3,000 news Web sites were made inaccessible within the country. Currently, 49 cyber dissidents and bloggers are behind bars, most of them for "revealing state secrets abroad."