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RSF website blocked again

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders discovered on 17 September 2008 that access to its main website ( http://www.rsf.org ) has again been blocked within China. The site had been accessible since 1 August, a week before the start of the Olympic Games.

"Our website was accessible for just over a month in China," the press freedom organisation said. "The freedom allowed to Chinese Internet users for the Beijing Olympic Games, which the authorities had promised, was just an illusion. There is no letup in online censorship in China. We call for the restoration of access to our site and all the other news and information sites that are blocked in China."

More than 13,000 Chinese Internet users, most of them based in Beijing, visited the Reporters Without Borders website from 1 August until 17 September.

Almost 10,000 Internet users looked at the Chinese-language articles on the Reporters Without Borders site during the same period. The most-read article was the "Journey to the Heart of Internet Censorship" report ( http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23924 ) that was issued on 10 October 2007. A few hours after its publication, Chinese cyber-censors filtered its content in order to prevent its dissemination ( http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25318 ).

The websites of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the BBC are still accessible although they continue to be "geo-blocked" for Internet users in Tibet. The overseas Chinese news and human rights websites are also blocked, as is the site ( http://www.torproject.org/ ) from which the censorship circumvention software TOR can be downloaded.

According to a recent report by Chinese Human Rights Defenders ( http://crd-net.org ), Chinese ISPs are often given orders to restrict their users' freedom of expression. The report gave the following examples of such directives:

- 2 July 2007: Do not allow any comment about the fire at the Beijing University Ping Pong Coliseum. Remove all the comments already online and ensure that the following keywords do not lead to any page: "Fire at the Beijing University Ping Pong Coliseum" and "Beijing University Ping Pong Coliseum on fire." Suppress any related report from online forums, blogs and other online information exchange platforms.

- 6 August 2007: Do not say anything about the demonstration organised by certain foreigners outside the International Olympic Committee.

- 13 August 2007: Delete the following expression from all sites: "Just one world, just one web and human rights: our appeals and recommendations for the Olympic Games."

According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, the electronic surveillance extends to mobile phones, whose text messages can be intercepted and stopped if the authorities consider their content "illegal." ISPs also monitor emails, applying the same filtering directives as they do to blogs.

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of the 50 cyber-dissidents who are currently in jail as a result of all this surveillance. Some of them have been held for nearly 10 years because of the views they expressed online.

For further information on previous attacks on RSF's site in China, see:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93473

For further information on the blocking of RSF's Chinese language website, see:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96549

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