Reporters Without Borders released its 2009 year-end round-up on on December 30, 2009. There are 151 bloggers and cyber-dissidents arrested, 61 physically assaulted and one died in prison in 2009. When compared with 2008, the number of bloggers arrested increased 155%. The report pointed out that China continued to be the leading internet censor in 2009 and RSF will launch a new campaign against the enemy of the Internet in coming March. Below is the summary on blogger and cyber dissidents section:
For the first time since the Internet’s emergence, Reporters Without Borders is aware of more than 100 bloggers and cyber-dissidents being imprisoned worldwide for posting their opinions online. This figure is indicative above all of the scale of the crackdown being carried out in around ten countries. Several countries have turned online expression into a criminal offence, dashing hopes of a censorship-free Internet.
The Internet has been the driving force for pro-democracy campaigns in Iran, China and elsewhere. It is above all for this reason that authoritarian governments have shown themselves so determined to severely punish Internet users. This is the case with two Azerbaijani bloggers, who were sentenced to two years in prison for making a film mocking the political elite.
Although China continued to be the leading Internet censor in 2009, Iran, Tunisia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan have also resorted to frequent blocking of websites and blogs and surveillance of online expression. The Turkmen Internet remains under total state control. This year, bloggers and ordinary citizens expressing themselves online have been assaulted, threatened or arrested as the popularity of social-networking and interactive websites has soared. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer is still in jail, while the famous Burmese comedian Zarganar still has 34 years of his prison sentence to serve. The approximately 120 victims of Internet policing also include such leading figures in the defence of online free expression as China’s Hu Jia and Liu Xiaobo and Vietnam’s Nguyen Trung and Dieu Cay. The financial crisis has joined the list of subjects likely to provoke censorship, particularly online. In South Korea, a blogger was wrongfully detained for commenting on the country’s disastrous economic situation. Around six netizens in Thailand were arrested or harassed just for making a connection between the king’s health and a fall in the Bangkok stock exchange. Censorship was slapped on the media in Dubai when it came for them to report on the country’s debt repayment problems.
Democratic countries have not lagged far behind. Several European countries are working on new steps to control the Internet in the name of the battle against child porn and illegal downloads. Australia has said it will set up a compulsory filtering system that poses a threat to freedom of expression. Turkey’s courts have increased the number of websites, including YouTube, that are blocked for criticising the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. “The number of countries affected by online censorship has doubled from one year to the next – a disturbing tendency that shows an increase in control over new media as millions of netizens get active online,” said Lucie Morillon, head of the Internet and Freedoms Desk. “That is why Reporters Without Borders will launch a new campaign against the Enemies of the Internet on 12 March.”
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