The Berlin and London-based European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) documents human rights violations in Saudi Arabia using a blog first created in August 2013 (and blocked in October 2013) and a website launched in September 2014 (and blocked since July 2015). Coordinating with other groups, its activists provide information and lobby governments internationally. As well as publishing articles and reports, ESOHR organizes and participates in conferences, seminars and other events, provides human rights training, and assists the victims of abuses.
A New York-based news website created in March 2000, Boxun owes its success to the speed with which it covers sensitive stories in China. It has always used the citizen-journalism model but, despite limited resources, it puts a great deal of effort into verifying the information it receives, often from anonymous sources, in order to comply with the editorial rules and ethical standards observed by professional journalists worldwide. Any information sent to Boxun, any story posted on the site, can put the author or contributor in danger. After being identified by the Chinese authorities, some of its contributors have been arrested, beaten and even forced to make public confessions. Despite the dangers, Boxun has original content in Mandarin and English, articles by correspondents, bylined reports and analyses (some of them by well-known writers) and discussion forums. It also reproduces stories, blogs and information from Chinese-language media outlets in China. For those seeking independently-reported information about China, it is an essential source and one of the most influential websites.
Sendika.org is an alternative news website that was launched 14 years ago. It aims to serve as a mouthpiece for those without a voice and to cover stories ignored by mainstream media – including social issues, the Kurdish issue, and the women’s and LGBT movements. Recognized as a leading source of news about the crackdown on the Occupy Gezi movement in 2013, it has also provided cutting-edge reporting on many other sensitive stories such air strikes against civilian targets in Roboski, the Soma coalmine explosion, rioting linked to the siege of Kobane, President Erdogan’s Syria policy and clashes in the southeast.
Sendika.org is one of the dozens of news sites that have been blocked since the resumption of hostilities between the government and PKK-led Kurdish rebels on 25 July 2015. Eight mirror sites have so far been blocked, one after the other. Would-be readers are currently redirected to the Sendika9.org address.
Not content with tightening his grip on the traditional media, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also gone out of his way to control the Internet, which is much used as a forum for free expression by Turkey’s embattled civil society. Following adoption of draconian reforms, websites are routinely blocked without reference to a judge as the government is now able to order “preventive blocking” of any content on an “emergency” basis. Internet service providers have four hours to comply and judicial endorsement of the decision after the event is virtually automatic. The authorities are also responsible for almost half of the Turkish content removal requests submitted to Twitter and, if need be, the government does not hesitate to block to the entire Twitter website or indeed the entire YouTube website – an extreme to which only a handful of the world’s most repressive regimes have so far resorted. The MIT intelligence agency has meanwhile steadily improved and expanded its mass surveillance techniques. Turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index.
Investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown founded the Sarawak Report, a London-based, English-language news website specializing in Malaysia, in 2010, at the same time as its sister outlet, Radio Free Sarawak, an exile radio station that has won several awards. After its coverage of illegal logging and corruption quickly attracted international attention, it stepped up its reporting of other political issues with a national and international impact, including revelations about government corruption under Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. As a result of its explosive revelations about high-level misdeeds in 2015, in particular, its coverage of the judicial investigation into allegations that a development fund called 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had channelled money into the prime minister’s personal accounts, the website was blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, which regulates the Malaysian media, on 20 July 2015.
Prime Minister Najib Razak wages a personal war against outspoken media outletsand does not hesitate to order police raids on newsrooms. The persecution of critical journalists extends to the Internet, and some news websites such as Sarawak Report and The Edge are blocked for reporting alleged corruption involving government officials. Opposition sites and news sites, including Sarawak Report, Radio Free Sarawak, Dayak Baru Blog and Malaysiakini, were also the targets of DDoS-type cyber-attacks in the run-up to local elections in Sarawak (on the island of Borneo) in April 2011. The authorities use draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act and the Sedition Act to intimidate critical journalists and bloggers. No fewer than 23 journalists and bloggers were questioned by the police in the first two months of 2015 in connection with what they had written online. As the judicial system is not independent, the authorities do not hesitate to take some media outlets to court.
DTD is both a website covering human rights in Vietnam and an RSF partner NGO that has organized seminars on cyber-security for Vietnamese bloggers and cyber-activists jointly with RSF. Human rights-related information published by news media and NGOs (both local and international) is collected by DTD, translated into Vietnamese and posted on its site. It has also produced weekly reviews of the Vietnamese and foreign press since 2014. And finally, thanks to a growing network of citizen-journalist contributors, it posts its own articles, interviews and videos, often with English-language translations. As a result, it constitutes a bridge between an international community seeking detailed recent information from local sources, and Vietnamese civil society, which is often unable to access foreign media and NGO reports because of government censorship or technical problems.
Created as a non-profit broadcaster in 1996 and funded by the US Congress via the
Broadcasting Board of Governors, Radio Free Asia aims to provide independently-
reported news and information to Asian countries that have little or no alternative
to government propaganda. Its Vietnamese service, launched in 1997 with two
hours of programming a day, is very popular with Vietnamese citizens tired of the
propaganda put out by the state media. Radio Free Asia also has a website that
serves as an alternative way of reaching its potential audience. If offers enriched
content and detailed coverage of all of the key issues in Vietnam, with a special focus
on democracy, civil society and human rights. Although Vietnam has one of the
region’s highest Internet penetration growth rates, it blocks the Radio Free Asia
website and thereby prevents its approximately 40 million Internet users from
accessing a source of independent and critical information unless they circumvent
the censorship by using secure browsers and virtual private networks (VPNs).