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New regulations announced as Internet censorship reaches unprecedented level

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the Chinese government's latest attempt to tighten its grip on the Internet. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced on 23 February 2010 that anyone wanting to operate a website would have to meet with regulators in person and bring identity documents.

"These new regulations represent a very disturbing step backwards for the Chinese Internet," Reporters Without Borders said. "No one is fooled. The pretext of combating pornography does not hold. The aim is to tighten political control and get Internet users to censor themselves by bringing them face to face with their censors or their agents. What netizen will dare to criticise the regime after meeting the person who could put them behind bars for one wrong word?"

In December, the authorities imposed a ban on individuals acquiring .cn domain names, restricting this possibility to organisations and companies. The 23 February announcement lifts that ban but imposes the personal interview requirement.

The campaign against online pornography, the justification given for the new regulations, has resulted in the arrest of more than 5,000 bloggers and the closure of more than 15,000 websites since its launch in January 2009, according to the authorities.

The press freedom organisation added: "We think that, by creating a very cumbersome administrative procedure, these provisions will be difficult to follow in practice. They will put technical obstacles in the way of those who want to express themselves freely online."

China is the world's biggest prison for netizens, with a total of 70 bloggers, Internet users and cyber-dissidents currently detained.

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