Ellery Roberts Biddle, Lisa Ferguson, Arzu Geybullayeva, Grady Johnson, Chris Rickleton, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.
We begin this week's report in Central Asia, where independent media workers have been gripped by controversy over a video that allegedly depicts children from Kazakhstan at an ISIS training camp in Syria. Kloop.kg, an independent news site based and hosted in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, republished the video as part of an article about Kazakh children purportedly living in ISIS training camps in the Middle East. When Kazakh authorities asked that Kloop remove the video, the site’s owners declined to do so. The Kazakh government promptly blocked the video.
Though often considered the most open country in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is now mimicking its neighbor. Kloop’s editors once again declined a removal request, this time from the Kyrgyz government. In response, the country’s prosecutor general requested on Dec. 10 that all local ISPs block access to the video. Carrying out that order would be technically complex.
Just five days later, local webhost ProHost said it planned to kick Kloop off of its servers, at the behest of the State Agency for Communications. For now, Kloop is de facto blocked in Kyrgyzstan.
Although authorities claim the video constitutes “extremist propaganda,” local experts suspect that officials wanted to make an example of Kloop—the site refused to remove the article on journalistic principle, causing the government embarrassment.
There are also those who suspect that the Kyrgyz government is simply using the video as an excuse to intimidate Kloop, evidence of a broader trend of media intimidation in the country.
Muck-raking journalist arrested in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan does not have much of a record of protecting free expression—President Ilham Aliev was recently afforded the dubious honor of winning a corruption watchdog’s “Person of the Year” award. Last week, the arrest of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayil illustrated just how far the Azeri government will go to shield itself from the unflattering reports of investigative journalists. But this was hardly unexpected—Ismayil has faced legal challenges, sexual harassment, and online intimidation for several years in response to her reports on shady financial deals by members of the Aliev family. While the charges against her are unclear due to gag orders placed on her lawyer and accuser, news of her arrest received international attention human rights groups and intergovernmental organizations alike.
In Japan, whistleblowers beware
A controversial state secrecy act became law in Japan on Dec. 10, increasing criminal penalties for individuals who leak information that has been classified as a state secret. The law provides sentences of up to ten 10 years for government workers who leak state secrets and up to five years for anyone that solicits information using “grossly inappropriate means.” The new law, which elicited mass protests in several of Japan’s major cities last spring, is widely expected to have a chilling effect on free speech in the country.
Spain’s Google tax has teeth
Google announced this week that it plans to remove Spanish publishers from its Google News service and will shut down the service entirely in Spain in response to a new law requiring Spanish publishers to tax any aggregator that reposts content from their articles. The law has been criticized for undermining the “right to link”, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jeremy Malcolm called “fundamental to the way the Web works.”
Swedes pounce on Pirate Bay
File-sharing site the Pirate Bay was shut down this week following a raid on its servers by Swedish police, who took down the site over alleged copyright violations. While there were no arrests, one of the Pirate Bay’s operators said they were not yet sure whether they would reboot the site.
Jailed Vietnamese photojournalist on hunger strike
Photojournalist Minh Man Dang Nguyen began a hunger strike on Nov. 28 to protest ill treatment she has received while in prison. Minh Man, who was sentenced to nine years in jail three years ago after her arrest for taking photographs at a protest, was placed in near-solitary confinement for unknown reasons. Last week, a student law clinic filed a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on her behalf.
U.S. Congress members make last-ditch effort to reverse IANA function promise
Republicans in the U.S. Congress added a provision to the recently passed budget bill seeking to prevent the Obama administration from giving up its oversight over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority function, a key component of the U.S. government’s power over the domain name system for the global Internet. However, the measure is likely to be ineffective due to procedural errors. Among other things, the contract that gives the nation’s Commerce Department oversight over IANA will not run out until fiscal year 2016—the appropriations bill only applies to 2015.
- Internet Monitor 2014: Reflections on the Digital World – Berkman Center for Internet and Society
- Bad News Bots: How Civil Society Can Combat Automated Online Propaganda – TechPresident