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Digital censorship threatens press freedom, new CPJ report shows

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, May 2, 2011 - As journalists increasingly use social media to report breaking news and the number of people with Internet access explodes worldwide, governments are employing sophisticated new tactics to suppress information, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, issued today to mark World Press Freedom Day.

CPJ's assessment of the 10 prevailing strategies for online oppression and the leading countries utilizing such tactics shows that traditional mechanisms of repression have evolved into pervasive digital censorship. The tools utilized include state-supported email designed to take over journalists' personal computers in China, the shutting down of anti-censorship technology in Iran, monopolistic control of the Net in Ethiopia, as well as synchronized cyber-attacks in Belarus.

"These techniques go well beyond Web censorship," said Danny O'Brien, CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator and author of the report. "The Internet is being used to spy on writers and sabotage independent news sites where press freedom is most threatened. The aim is not only to censor but to block or disrupt the reporting process and the dissemination of news and information."

The digital offensive is often coupled with physical intimidation of online journalists. In 2010, CPJ research shows that 69 journalists whose work appeared primarily online were jailed as of December 1, constituting nearly half of all those in prison.

"These sophisticated, often invisible, attacks constitute a new front in the fight for press freedom," said O'Brien. "Bypassing censorship is important but basic protection of source data and identities should take priority as well. Combined, these digital attacks undermine our universal right to seek information."

Click here to read the report "The 10 Tools of Online Oppressors"

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