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From jamming websites to persecuting bloggers to banning messaging services, the Internet censorship tactics of repressive regimes across the globe are exposed in a recent report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

For their severe attacks on online free expression, the "Enemies of the Internet" report singles out 12 countries: Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

"All 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," says RSF.

For instance, in Burma, where 14 journalists and two bloggers are currently imprisoned, citizens are forbidden from owning a modem without official permission. In Cuba, Internet users who post an article deemed "counter-revolutionary" face up to 20 years in jail. In Vietnam, Internet host companies are required to regularly update the government on individual user activities in order to facilitate surveillance.

RSF also draws attention to worrying developments that threaten online access to information and freedom of expression in 10 other countries. The government of Australia proposed a draft law early last year that requires service providers to filter all private Internet connections by removing content deemed "inappropriate." Already, anti-terror legislation permits the Australian Communications and Media Authority to intercept emails without a warrant. RSF also categorises South Korea as one of 10 countries "under surveillance" for unjustly charging Internet users with "spreading false information," a crime that can carry a sentence of several years in prison.

Currently 70 individuals are in prison for their online postings. China detains the most "cyber-dissidents," followed by Vietnam and Iran, according to RSF.

To download the full report, see:

(18 March 2009)

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