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RSF releases new list of "Internet enemies" on World Day Against Cyber Censorship

RSF

(RSF/IFEX) - 11 March 2010 - On March 12, Reporters Without Borders celebrates World Day Against Cyber Censorship. This event is intended to rally everyone in support of a free Internet, accessible to all. The fight for free access to information is being played out to an ever greater extent on the Internet. The emerging general trend is that a growing number of countries are attempting to tighten their control of the Net, but at the same time, increasingly inventive netizens demonstrate mutual solidarity by mobilizing when necessary. Reporters Without Borders marks the occasion by issuing its latest list of "Enemies of the Internet." This report points the finger at countries that restrict online access and harass their netizens. A list of countries that have been placed "under surveillance" for displaying a disturbing attitude towards the Internet will also be released.

The "Enemies of the Internet" list drawn up again this year presents the worst violators of freedom of expression on the Net: Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

Some of these countries are determined to use any means necessary to prevent their citizens from having access to the Internet: Burma, North Korea, Cuba, and Turkmenistan – countries in which technical and financial obstacles are coupled with harsh crackdowns and the existence of a very limited Intranet. Internet shutdowns or major slowdowns are commonplace in periods of unrest. The Internet's potential as a portal open to the world directly contradicts the propensity of these regimes to isolate themselves from other countries. Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan have opted for such massive filtering that their Internet users have chosen to practice self-censorship. For economic purposes, China, Egypt, Tunisia and Vietnam have wagered on a infrastructure development strategy while keeping a tight control over the Web's political and social content (Chinese and Tunisian filtering systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated), and they are demonstrating a deep intolerance for critical opinions. The serious domestic crisis that Iran has been experiencing for months now has caught netizens and the new media in its net; they have become enemies of the regime.

Among the countries "under surveillance" are several democracies: Australia, because of the upcoming implementation of a highly developed Internet filtering system, and South Korea, where draconian laws are creating too many specific restrictions on Web users by challenging their anonymity and promoting self-censorship.

Turkey and Russia have just been added to the "Under Surveillance" list. In Russia, aside from the control exercised by the Kremlin on most of its media outlets, the Internet has become the freest space for sharing information. Yet its independence is being jeopardized by blogger arrests and prosecutions, as well as by blockings of so-called "extremist" websites. The regime's propaganda is increasingly omnipresent on the Web. There is a real risk that the Internet will be transformed into a tool for political control.

In Turkey, taboo topics mainly deal with Ataturk, the army, issues concerning minorities (notably Kurds and Armenians) and the dignity of the Nation. They have served as justification for blocking several thousand sites, including YouTube, thereby triggering a great deal of protest. Bloggers and netizens who express themselves freely on such topics may well face judicial reprisals.

Other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Thailand are also maintaining their "under surveillance" status, but will need to make more progress to avoid getting transferred to the next "Enemies of the Internet" list: Thailand, because of abuses related to the crime of "lèse-majesté"; the Emirates, because they have bolstered their filtering system; Belarus because its president has just signed a liberticidal order that will regulate the Net and which will enter into force this summer – just a few months before the elections.

Bahrain, Eritrea, Sri Lanka and Malaysia also appear on the "Under Surveillance" list.

Read the full report:
Internet_enemies.pdf (1166 KB)

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