March 13, 2012

Enemies Of Internet Named By Reporters Without Borders

Arab Spring, the name given to a cascade of revolts across the Arab world, is changing the face of internet freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders. An annual report classifies as “enemies”, countries that severely curtail freedom of expression on and access to the web, AP reports.

Reporters Without Borders, which released its latest “Enemies of the Internet” list Monday,  added Bahrain to its enemies list, citing a news blackout and harassment of bloggers in an attempt to quell a yearlong Shiite-led rebellion against the Sunni monarchy.

“Bahrain offers a perfect example of successful crackdowns, with an information blackout achieved through an impressive arsenal of repressive measures: exclusion of the foreign media, harassment of human rights defenders, arrests of bloggers and netizens (one of whom died behind bars), prosecutions and defamation campaigns against free expression activists, disruption of communications,” the Paris-based group´s report said.

The Arab Spring has, however, allowed to opening up of the internet by some regimes. The repressive internet access rules of Libya´s Moammar Gadhafi was removed from the list of countries under surveillance after his government was replaced.

“In Libya, many challenges remain but the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime has ended an era of censorship,” the report said.

The current enemies list of free and open internet includes many obvious countries such as China, Myanmar and North Korea. But the list of those under surveillance contains some surprises such as Australia and France.

Reporters Without Borders had criticism for Australia for promoting a national content-filtering system, blocking access to child pornography sites and others deemed inappropriate. The group is concerned that the government is still also pursuing a system of mandatory content-filtering whose criteria are “very broad.”

France was derided for a series of criminal indictments of journalists for stories they wrote. It remains on the list this year because of a law that could punish people who repeatedly illegally download content by cutting off their internet access.


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