Bahrain and Belarus have been added by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to its "Enemies of the Internet" list on World Day against Cyber Censorship (12 March). Find out which other countries regularly restrict online access and harass their netizens at www.cyber-tag.net, and make your mark literally - by virtually spray painting or tagging a message on the embassies of the 12 worst offenders.
RSF said Bahrain had smeared free-speech activists, arrested bloggers, harassed human rights activists and kept the international media away to create "an effective news blackout." Earlier this year, around the one-year anniversary of Bahrain's peaceful uprising, international observer website WitnessBahrain.org and a slew of live streaming sites were blocked.
Bloggers continue to be targeted: to name just a few, Zainab al-Khawaja (aka Angry Arabiya), who was brutally arrested in December 2011 and again in February 2012, is currently standing trial; Abduljalil al-Singace was given a life sentence in a military court and has been reportedly tortured in detention; and Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was charged for "indicting protests using Twitter" in February. In an extreme case, a military court acquitted the guards responsible for the death in custody of one netizen, Zakariya al-Asheeri.
Belarus also joined the list after the Internet was blocked and journalists and bloggers were arrested, especially after President Alexander Lukashenko's controversial re-election in December 2010. According to RSF, about 100 Belarusian journalists were interrogated in 2011 alone, and more than 30 were given prison terms.
Belarusian officials have also used the Web to intimidate protesters, RSF said. The Interior Ministry used its Twitter account to warn anti-government protesters last year, "To all persons going to the city square(…) You will have to answer for it."
RSF's full list of Internet Enemies is:
This year, RSF wants you to let the countries know what you think about their Internet censorship. Inspired by the slogan, "It's ink that should flow, not blood", which RSF painted during a protest outside the Syrian embassy in Paris last May, the Cyber Tag site invites users to stage virtual demos outside the embassies of their choice and to leave messages on their facades.
RSF also assembles a countries "under surveillance" list, which includes: Australia, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
New to the list this year are India and Kazakhstan: India for stepping up Internet surveillance and putting pressure on technical service providers, and Kazakhstan, where an oil workers' strike, a major riot, a wave of bombings and the President's ailing health all contributed to greater government control of online information.
Two countries were removed from the surveillance list: Libya, where long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed, and Venezuela, where it turns out legislation that critics had feared would limit Internet freedom "has yet to have any damaging effect in practice."
Launched by RSF and Amnesty International in 2008, World Day Against Cyber Censorship is intended to rally everyone in support of a single Internet without restrictions and accessible to all, and to pay tribute to the netizens who are detained for expressing their views freely online.
According to RSF, approximately 120 netizens are currently detained, mainly in China, Iran and Vietnam, and last year five netizens were killed, and at least 200 were arrested, up 30 percent the previous year.