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Reporters Without Borders

World day against cyber-censorship

Launched by Reporters Without Borders in 2008, World Day Against Cyber-Censorship (on 12 March 2011) is intended to rally everyone in support of a single Internet without restrictions and accessible to all.

The fight for online freedom of expression is more essential than ever. By creating new spaces for exchanging ideas and information, the Internet is a force for freedom. In countries where the traditional media are controlled by the government, the only independent news and information are to be found on the Internet, which has become a forum for discussion and a refuge for those who want to express their views freely.

However, more and more governments have realised this and are reacting by trying to control the Internet. Never have so many countries been affected by some form of online censorship, whether arrests or harassment of netizens, online surveillance, website blocking or the adoption of repressive Internet laws. Netizens are being targeted by government reprisals. Around 117 of them are currently detained for expressing their views freely online, mainly in China, Iran and Vietnam.

World Day Against Cyber-Censorship pays tribute to them and their fight for Internet freedom. Reporters Without Borders will mark the occasion by issuing its latest list of “Enemies of the Internet.”

The map of cyber-censorship

The map of cyber-censorship
  • Internet Enemies Internet Enemies
  • Countries under surveillance Countries under surveillance
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The Enemies of the Internet

The year 2010 firmly established the role of social networks and the Internet as mobilisation and news transmission tools, especially during the Arab spring. New and traditional media have proven to be increasingly complementary. Meanwhile, repressive regimes have intensified censorship, propaganda and repression, keeping 119 netizens in jail. Issues such as national security - linked to the WikiLeaks publications - and intellectual property - are challenging democratic countries' support to online free speech.
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Internet Enemies

Burma took drastic measures in 2010 to reorganise the country's Internet and to arm itself with the means, at the next sign of a crisis, to cut off its population's Web access without affecting official connections. Prior to the November 2010 elections - the first in twenty years - censors resorted to massive crackdowns, intimidation and cyberattacks to reduce the risk of any negative coverage. Tampering is now at its height. Widespread Net censorship in Burma The regime is enforcing harsh (...)
Read more about Burma »
The Chinese government, exasperated that dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and concerned about spill-over effects from the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions, has drastically tightened its grip on the Web in order to transform it from a protest medium to a tool for political control. Any attempt to challenge the country's stability has been quashed by harsh repression. The regime is taking aim at social networks, particularly micro-blogging websites and online anonymity. (...)
Read more about China »
The Cuban regime, more wary of bloggers than traditional dissidents, decided to expand its online presence to combat them. Now that Venezuelan fibre optic cable is available on the island, the authorities have what they need to improve connection speeds and lower costs. There are fewer and fewer excuses for maintaining censorship or keeping the population away from the Web. Are we witnessing signs of a Web Springtime, now that the journalists persecuted during the Black Springtime of March (...)
Read more about Cuba »
Iran has intensified online crackdowns and surveillance again this year, particularly in periods of unrest and demonstrations, during which the authorities have resorted to causing Internet slowdowns and disconnections, or jamming telephone lines. The regime has also continued to demonise the new media, accusing them of serving foreign interests. Several netizens have been sentenced to death. Toughening and broadening Internet censorship In January 2011, the authorities finished setting (...)
Read more about Iran »
North Korea
While Kim Jong Il has been diligently keeping his people away from the rest of the world, Internet access has been reserved for a small circle of the elite. Recently, the country made its entry into the social networks, bringing its virulent propaganda war onto the Web. North Korea's alleged first direct connections to the World Wide Web were first observed when the "Dear Leader" was preparing his succession. Internet: An illusionary hunting ground for the country's elite North Korea is (...)
Read more about North Korea »
Saudi Arabia
Unrelenting censorship still plagues the Net ? the only space in the country where some form of freedom of expression has managed to thrive in the last few years. Some still-mobilised cyberdissidents, who were caught by the authorities exercising their right to voice critical opinions, paid a stiff price. Strict filtering and denunciations An strictly enforced filtering system targets any content which authorities deem to be pornographic or "morally reprehensible". Websites which discuss (...)
Read more about Saudi Arabia »
Syria's lack of infrastructure is still impeding Web growth. The new online media law has tightened censorship which, from late 2010 until now, has sought to discourage messages concerning the regime's fall in Tunisia. As a symbol of netizen repression, the case of Tal al-Mallouhi ? the youngest blogger in the world behind bars ? is mobilising the blogosphere beyond Syria's borders. Controlled growth of the Internet Although internet access has expanded considerably in the last decade, the (...)
Read more about Syria »
The Turkmen government has curbed the very recent Internet growth and continues to practice widespread censorship. Its monopolistic takeover of the cell telephone market has allowed it to enhance its control over communications. The international community seems more determined to make concessions than to exert any real pressure on this country, in view of its vast energy and strategic potential. Prohibitive costs of Internet access Although President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow finally (...)
Read more about Turkmenistan »
Despite the European Union's decision in late 2009 to lift the sanctions against Uzbekistan, the regime has not loosened its grasp on the Net ? quite to the contrary. This police state is still routinely preventing the dissemination of information online and all efforts to initiate a civil society ? virtual or any other kind. Better access to the Internet? Internet access costs are gradually decreasing, thereby providing more opportunities for the population to surf the Web. Consequently (...)
Read more about Uzbekistan »
The 11th Vietnamese Communist Party Congress of January 2011 marked the start of a more hard-line approach on the part of the regime to its critics, and was preceded by a new, particularly harsh wave of repression aimed at those who dare to exercise their freedom of expression. A lead weight is bearing down on the country's dissidents. There has been massive use of cyberattacks to silence dissenting opinion. Blogging has become dangerous. The "Internet threat" Internet use continues to (...)
Read more about Vietnam »

Countries under surveillance

The government has not abandoned its dangerous plan to filter online traffic, even though this will be hard to get parliamentary approval. A harsh filtering system After a year of tests in cooperation with Australian Internet service providers, telecommunications minister Stephen Conroy said in December 2009 the government would seek parliamentary approval for mandatory filtering of "inappropriate" websites. Blocking access to a website would BE authorised not by a court but by a (...)
Read more about Australia »
In the last two years, Bahrain authorities had resolved to set up a targeted filtering system and to arrest netizens on the pretext of fighting terrorism and maintaining national stability. Since early 2011, while democratic demands and popular protest movements have been rocking the Arab world, their strategy has been vacillating between intensifying censorship of the political opposition and concessions in the form of released prisoners. An ingrained targeted filtering system The (...)
Read more about Bahraïn »
Until now Belarus' sole space for freedom, the Internet, has just been put under a regulatory microscope by the government in the wake of a repressive order which entered into effect in July 2010. The suspicious death of an online journalist has traumatised the profession. In the run-up to the elections, and during the demonstrations following the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, "Europe's last dictator" civil society has witnessed crackdowns both offline, against demonstrators (...)
Read more about Belarus »
The Internet was not censored under President Hosni Mubarak, but his regime kept a sharp eye on the most critical bloggers and regularly arrested them. At the height of the uprising against the dictatorship, in late January 2011, the authorities first filtered pictures of the repression and then cut off Internet access entirely in a bid to stop the revolt spreading. Journalists were also beaten. Mubarak's fall is a chance to entrench greater freedom of expression, especially online. (...)
Read more about Egypt »
At a time when many Arab-world dictators are losing their power, Asmara's brutal and repressive regime is eager to prevent any attempt to destabilise the government. It continues to use a variety of tactics - including technical barriers and netizen intimidation - to keep the population from gaining access to the Web and its potential as a protest vehicle. Technical barriers To date, the Internet is the only space in which Eritreans are free to voice their opinions in a country which (...)
Read more about Eritrea »
With the implementation in France of the "three-strikes" legislation and of a law providing for the administrative filtering of the web and the defense of a "civilised" Internet, the impact of recent legislation and government-issued statements about the free flow of online information are raising serious concerns. The year 2010 was difficult for several online media and their journalists targeted for office break-ins and court summons and pressured to identify their sources. For the first (...)
Read more about France »
Col Muammar Gaddafi has launched a fierce attack on the Internet as the country teeters on the brink of civil war. The mainstream media have long been under his control and now the regime is trying to completely stifle the news in a bid to crush the revolt and the reporting of its repression. Progress begun in 2007 reversed since 2010 The regime began to increase civil liberties in 2007 but they are now shrinking. Oea and Quryana, the first privately-owned newspapers founded then by (...)
Read more about Libya »
While the role of the Internet and of the new media is expanding, the opposition press is being subjected to censorship, and the government is attempting to prepare the media landscape for the approaching elections. In view of the proposed cyber sedition law, and the fact that bloggers and critics are still under pressure, social networks seem to be the most effective cure for any impulse to practice self-censorship and the best stage for much-needed debates which the traditional media (...)
Read more about Malaysia »
The Russian state is characterized by a lack of political pluralism and widespread corruption. In a country where respect for human rights is far from given, state control of the broadcast media, arbitrary use of an anti-extremism law and, above all, impunity for acts of violence against journalists, especially in the North Caucasus, are the main media freedom violations.. Dmitry Medvedev showed signs of wanting to allow more freedom after being installed as president in 2008, but the (...)
Read more about Russia »
South Korea
South Korea, the world's "most wired" nation, has intensified its censorship of pro-North Korean websites. Determined to maintain public order in a period of political tensions and social unrest, President Lee Myung-bak's government sometimes resorts to excessive methods and a liberticidal legislative arsenal to compel netizens to practice self-censorship. Censorship strengthened in reaction to Northern propaganda For several years, South Korea has been practicing selective blocking: it (...)
Read more about South Korea »
Sri Lanka
Online journalists and media continue to be targeted for violence. Impunity persists, and the regime does not hesitate to use censorship when its efforts to induce self-censorship no longer suffice. The censorship reflex Some independent news websites - LankaeNews, LankaNewsWeb, InfoLanka and Sri Lanka Guardian - were blocked in January 2010 a few hours before the presidential election results were announced. Since then, they have all been unblocked with the exception of LankaNewsWeb, (...)
Read more about Sri Lanka »
The spring 2010 crisis had a negative impact on online freedom of expression. The state of emergency was marked by an escalation of censorship, while the various factions continue to use the lèse majesté crime against their political opponents, allegedly to protect the King and to ensure the country's stability. State of emergency and censorship A state of emergency was imposed on 7 April and lifted on 22 December 2010, but it was replaced by the Internal Security Act (ISA) which provides (...)
Read more about Thailand »
The country is awakening to Internet freedom after being one of the world's most harshly censored under the rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown in January. But the national censorship body, nicknamed Ammar 404, has not been completely dismantled. The role of the social networks in covering "#sidibouzid" The popular uprising sparked by what happened in Sidi Bouzid exploded at a time when news was totally controlled by the regime. The government imposed a (...)
Read more about Tunisia »
The year 2010 was marked by the widely covered deblocking of the video-sharing website YouTube which, unfortunately, did not equate to a lifting of online censorship in Turkey. In a country where taboo topics abound, several thousand websites are still inaccessible and legal proceedings against online journalists persist. The YouTube saga Much was written throughout Turkey in 2010 about the fate of the Google-owned video-sharing website YouTube. Blocked in Turkey since May 2008 because (...)
Read more about Turkey »
United Arab Emirates
The Internet and the new media relayed information about a wide range of sensitive topics in 2010 such as corruption and criticism of the government, causing online repression and censorship to intensify. The attempts to access BlackBerrys datas contrast starkly with the image of modernity that the United Arab Emirates is trying to cultivate. A technological leader The United Arab Emirates is a technological leader in the Arab world, thanks primarily to Dubai Media City and Dubai (...)
Read more about United Arab Emirates »
President Hugo Chávez, who is systematically covered by all traditional media, could not resist the temptation to increase his exposure on the Internet and to try to regulate this space over which he had previously eluded his grasp. He succeeded in 2010, amidst increasing tension between leaders and the opposition media. Although there is still free Internet access in the country, tools for controlling access are in place and self-censorship is on the rise. Discussion forums are being (...)
Read more about Venezuela »

Netizen Prize

Nawaat : Reporters Without Borders awards the 2011 Netizen Prize to tunisian bloggers

Nawaat won against finalists from Bahrain, Belarus, Thailand, China and Vietnam. An independent jury of press specialists determined the winner.

Dominique Gerbaud, Reporters Without Borders President, Jean-François Julliard, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general and Google President for Southern and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa and Carlo d’Asaro Biondo will speak at the award ceremony in Paris. Doctors Without Borders founder and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will give the prize to Nawaat’s co-founder Riadh Guerfali (Astrubal) at a ceremony in Paris at the Salon des Miroirs. Read more...


Nawaat (Tunisia)

Created in 2004, is an independent collective blog operated by Tunisian bloggers as a platform for all “committed citizens.” It has played a crucial role in covering the social and political unrest in Tunisia that began on 17 December. Its activity is representative of the key function fulfilled by bloggers and social network users in the fight for the right to news and information. The site recently created a special page for the WikiLeaks revelations about Tunisia, and another one about the récent events in Sidi Bouzid, which were not covered in the traditional media. It also warns Internet users about the dangers of being identified online and offers advice about circumventing censorship It was founded by Astrubal and Sami Ben Gharbia, two well-known bloggers who post regularly on the site.

Ali Abdulemam (Bahrain)

A very active blogger regarded by fellow Bahraini netizens as one of the Gulf’s Internet pioneers, Ali Abdulemam was arrested on 4 September 2010 on a charge of defaming the government. He was also accused of trying to destabilize the country by posting “false information about its internal affairs” on Bahrain Online, a pro-democracy forum that gets more than 100,000 visitors a day despite being blocked within Bahrain. Many calls for his release were issued by a solidarity campaign, via a Facebook group and in petitions. In a concession to the opposition and to demonstrators on 22 February, the government suddenly freed him and 22 other opposition and human rights activists who were being tried with him. Abdulemam said he was mistreated and tortured while detained.

Jiew, Prachatai (Thailand)

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, widely known as Jiew, is the webmaster and editor of Prachatai, a Thai alternative news website. She has repeatedly been arrested and is currently facing the possibility of up to 70 years in prison on various charges under the criminal code and the Computer Crimes Act including defaming the royal family. Prachatai had to change its web address several times because of blocking measures while providing objective coverage of the unrest in Thailand in April and May of 2010. Jiew is the target of judicial harassment for her role at the head of one of the few websites to keep resisting censorship during the unrest. Her case is an example of the arbitrary use made of Thailand’s lèse-majesté legislation and Computer Crimes Act. Her trial has been postponed until September 2011.

Tan Zuoren (China)

A contributor to the 64Tianwang human rights blog, Tan Zuoren is serving a five-year sentence on a charge of inciting subversion of state authority. He is one of the Chinese netizens who has been jailed for trying to defend the public interest, like Huang Qi, the website’s editor, who is serving a three-year sentence. After the May 2008 earthquake in the southwestern province of Sichuan, he urged fellow netizens to come to the province to help document the plight of the families of the victims. In particular, he blamed shoddy construction (“tofu”) for the fact that many schools collapsed in the earthquake unlike

well-constructed government buildings. He was arrested in March 2009 and was sentenced on 9 February 2010.

Pham Minh Hoang (Vietnam/France)

A blogger with dual French and Vietnamese citizenship, Pham Minh Hoang was arrested on 13 August 2010 in Ho Chi Minh City, where he was teaching at the Institute of Technology. He was formally charged on 20 September with “activities aimed at overthrowing the government” (article 79 of the criminal code) and membership of a “terrorist organization” (the banned Viet Tan party). The police mentioned 30 articles that he had posted on his blog under the pseudonym of Phan Kien Quoc. They also accused him of organizing 40 students into a group for training as future Viet Tan members.

His wife, Le Thi Kieu Oanh, insists that the sole reason for his arrest was his opposition to bauxite mining by a Chinese company in the central highlands, a highly sensitive subject in Vietnam.

Natalia Radzina, Charter97 (Bélarus)

Journalist Natalia Radzina is the editor of Charter 97, a news website that covers cases of arrests, physical attacks and harassment involving traditional and online journalists and human rights activists. It has been the target of many cyberattacks and prosecutions in recent years. She was arrested on 20 December, one day after the récent presidential election, at a time when the government was trying to shut down all means of communication, and has been detained ever since. She is facing up to 15 years in prison on a charge of organizing and participating in a public order disturbance under article 293 of the criminal code. She was freed on January 2011, but she is nonetheless still facing a possible 15-year jail sentence of a charge of “participating in riots.” The website’s founder, Oleg Bebenin, was found hanged in puzzling circumstances last September. His death is still being investigated.

Online Mobilization

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The Campaign

Original artwork by Joel Guenoun

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