Never before have so many people been threatened or imprisoned for what the words they write on the internet.
As activists and ordinary citizens have increasingly made use of the internet to express their opinions and connect with others, many governments have also increased surveillance, filtering, legal actions and harassment. The harshest consequence for many has been the politically motivated arrest of bloggers and online writers for their online and/or offline activities, in some tragic cases even leading to death. Online journalists and bloggers now represent 45% of all media workers in prison worldwide.
Today, Global Voices Advocacy is launching a new website called Threatened Voices to help track suppression of free speech online. It features a world map and an interactive timeline that help visualize the story of threats and arrests against bloggers worldwide, and it is a central platform to gather information from the most dedicated organisations and activists, including Committee to Protect Bloggers, The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch, CyberLaw Blog, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Global Voices Advocacy.
What blogger, where?
Finding accurate information about arrested and threatened bloggers and online writers is difficult for several reasons.
First, the secrecy surrounding online censorship and repression makes it extra difficult to be accurate. Not a single week passes without stories of arrests of yet another online journalist or activist in countries like Egypt or Iran, but the details and reasons are often shrouded in mystery.
Second, there is still some confusion about the definition of a “blogger”. Professional journalists are increasingly migrating to online media and blogs in pursuit of more freedom, blurring the old lines of definition. And many so-called cyber-dissidents in China, Tunisia, Vietnam, or Iran, do not have personal blogs. Other times, bloggers are arrested for their offline activity, rather than for what they have published online.
This confusion has sometimes made it hard for online free speech advocates to come up with a good strategies and partnerships to defend bloggers and online activists, but it has never been more important to try.
Let's work together
At Global Voices we engage a community of authors, editors, and translators, who help keep us all informed of free speech and human rights abuses. With Threatened Voices we aim to open the process of reporting up even further to any person who has information.
We're calling on those whose friends, relatives, colleagues, or compatriots, have been threatened to help create and update the profiles of those missing or under arrest, so we can seek additional sources, verify, and link to online campaigns dedicated to freeing them.
In the process, we are hoping to learn more about when, where, and to what extent bloggers are being subjected to abuse in different countries, so we can share that information widely with journalists, researchers, and activists, and work towards creating an internet where everyone can exercise their right to speak freely, and where bloggers in prison are not forgotten.
Help spread the word. Tweet, blog and update your facebook status about Threatened Voices!