Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

May 05 2011

18:27

Is Non-Profit Journalism A Safeguard for Press Freedom?

wpfd2011logo200.jpg

WASHINGTON, DC -- Since May 3, 1991, World Press Freedom Day has been celebrated worldwide annually to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect it. Marking the 10th anniversary last Tuesday, an international conference was organized in Washington, DC, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the U.S. State Department to debate the "new frontiers" of the media. You can see the entire agenda here.

Online freedom and the changing media landscape had pride of place and I was given the opportunity to debate online censorship on May 2 as well as discuss the actual situation between "traditional" and "new media," as a representative of Reporters Without Borders. (Note that Reporters Without Borders also has a special World Day Against Cyber-Censorship focused entirely on online expression.)

In countries where online platforms are tightly controlled -- but also are some of the rare places to get uncensored information -- the lines between traditional and new media is very vague. It's possible that non-profit journalism websites (or sites where the news isn't a profit center) might help safeguard press freedom.

Reports from Malaysia, France

In Malaysia, Premesh Chandran had to adapt to the fact that advertisers were staying away because the info published on Malaysiakini.com was not fitting in with the control imposed on media by the government. Malaysia is ranked 141st out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Without ads, Malaysiakini began to install a pay wall for its English version. The website thought it might take a non-profit business model but according to Chandran, "It became obvious that [they] had to become more professional." The subscription allows the core of an audience to support the news activities of the website. But Chandran acknowledges that "readers don't pay."

In France, OWNI.fr depends on the expertise of reporters and licensed content for their free website, but make money by sell journalism services to online publishers. (You can read more about OWNI in this story by Mark Glaser on MediaShift.)

"In terms of client acquisition, this is very helpful," according to OWNI's director of data journalism Nicholas Kayser-Bril. OWNI worked with WikiLeaks on a non-profit basis and organized the crowdsourcing for documents that were released. It is now an expertise that they can sell to other organizations. For this website, the content and features are a non-profit activity, because the income is generated by services instead. "This a way of adapting journalism to the technologies," said Kayser-Bril.

Open Source Software at AllAfrica.com

Convinced that mobile phones were making a huge impact on the way media are operating in Africa, Amadou Mahtar Ba, co-founder of AllAfrica.com, insisted that "traditional media need to adapt to technology. Many media organization are losing relevance and there is a fundamental growth of mobile phones."

"Media owners and operators need guidelines and principles, as journalists have theirs," Ba said.

AllAfrica.com is a news content publisher and relies on the development of systems based on free and open source software, such as XML::Comma, released under the GNU General Public License. It has become the entry point to a global, Africa-interested audience, as well as a pioneering set of technologies. Here again, journalism is a non-profit activity.

newseum feeds.jpg

According to Richard Tofel, general manager of ProPublica, there is a role for non-profit journalism to take over the economic failures of the "traditional" media by taking the risks the latter could not afford anymore.

"We are going to a new territory based on a technological revolution," he said. "We need experimentation and a willingness to take risks almost every day to discover these new ways," said Tofel, when asked about the training journalists should receive to handle these different ways of making the news.

Press freedom is not only about journalists being killed and harassed and newspapers being forced to close by oppressive governments. It is also about guaranteeing independence -- independence from advertisers is no less complicated than independence from donors. At the panel discussion, one of the solutions was making money from readers and services. These publications do bring in money and are trying to get their readers to adapt to new technologies. Non-profit journalism, in the sense of news not being the profitable activity, is a way of helping to guarantee more editorial independence. This is one more possible safeguard for press freedom.

Photo of the Newseum by Clothilde le Coz

Clothilde Le Coz has been working for Reporters Without Borders in Paris since 2007. She is now the Washington director for this organization, helping to promote press freedom and free speech around the world. In Paris, she was in charge of the Internet Freedom desk and worked especially on China, Iran, Egypt and Thailand. During the time she spent in Paris, she was also updating the "Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents," published in 2005. Her role is now to get the message out for readers and politicians to be aware of the constant threat journalists are submitted to in many countries.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

December 26 2010

23:30

Online Censorship Grows in 2010, Showing Power of Netizens

birds 2010 small.jpg

Despite some good PR for online freedom this year, online censorship grew and became more subtle in 2010. Online propaganda remains strong within countries like China and Iran, where media censorship is everywhere and the governments have mastered online censorship tools. These countries are as efficient as hacktivists when it comes to controlling information.

China and Vietnam remain among the most repressive countries, with 77 and 16 netizens in jail, respectively (read our recent report on Vietnam here). Thailand is unmerciful when it comes to lese-majeste laws (also read our recent report about how this law is being abused). And a new player, Venezuela, is on the verge of adopting a bill that will introduce Internet filtering and a range of penalties for online media for vaguely worded offenses.

Democracies such as France are also taking further steps to implement a legal framework for online filtering. The French government is working on an ineffective and dangerous online filtering system that could jeopardize the work of journalists and bloggers in the name of fighting child pornography.

Overall, netizens continue to be victims of threats and unfair trials and arrests. In just one example, a 28-year-old Egyptian human rights activist was beaten to death by police in Alexandria on June 6.

But along with the setbacks, 2010 saw a few high profile cases that hinted at an improving state of affairs for online freedom. The positive developments include Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer being set free in November after completing a four-year jail sentence, Turkey ending its two-and-a-half-year ban on YouTube in the spring 2010, and Turkmenistan, which has been called the "European North Korea," began to slowly open up to the Internet.

As of today, 112 netizens are in jail. This is an improvement over the 151 that were arrested in 2009. So does that mean things are getting better?

Netizens and the Public Interest

taintedmilk.jpg

Despite the strengthening of online propaganda and the growing expertise being developed by what we at Reporters Without Borders call the Enemies of the Internet, netizens keep finding ways to practice online freedom of expression even in the most repressive countries. In 2010 netizens proved the essential role they play in repressive societies. In China and Russia, netizens denounced corruption by local authorities and made important information available to their fellow citizens.

Overall, the environment, corruption, health care and politics remain the main topics focused on by the netizens defended by Reporters Without Borders. For example, in China, the activist Zhao Lianhai created a website to detail the effect that contaminated milk powder sold from Chinese company Sanluon had on young children. An estimated 300,000 children in China were made ill, 50,000 were hospitalized and at least six newborn babies died as result of consuming the milk powder. One of Lianhai's children was made ill by the milk powder, and he used the website to urge parents to bring a class action suit against those responsible. In the end, Lianhai was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for "inciting social unrest."

Netizens and the Law

armed_forces_egypt_fb-2.jpg

Because the Internet is still a vague legal notion in many of the countries, it has always been easy for repressive regimes to convict netizens on vague charges. As an example, netizens belonging to minorities can be accused of "separatism," and using the Internet and social media can be considered activities aimed at overthrowing the government.

2010 was no stranger to legal absurdity. In Azerbaijan, two well-known bloggers Adnan Hajizade and Emin Mili were released after spending more than a year in jail for "hooliganism." This was because they went to the police to report after they were assaulted in a restaurant by two men. In Egypt, blogger Ahmed Hassan Basiouny will be tried by court martial for creating a Facebook page that offered advice and information to young people thinking of enlisting in the Egyptian army.

Internet Companies: Accomplices?

When Google decided to withdraw its email services from China after being a victim of cyberattacks, the issue of corporate responsibility gained worldwide attention. Later in the year, Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian manufacturer of the BlackBerry smartphone, was involved in a situation that showed we cannot expect technology companies to respect human rights. The company has been under intense pressure from several governments to allow access to encrypted BlackBerry communications, among other requests. The nature of the agreements made between RIM and these governments remains unclear due to conflicting statements from the parties. Reporters Without Borders has called for more transparency so that users know exactly what's going on.

Compared with the past decade, authorities and governments have never put as much energy into attempts to control online content. But this is good news. It illustrates that online free speech is spreading and netizens are winning. The battle is not lost in advance, but it is still far from being lost.

Photo of tainted milk event by jiruan via Flickr

Note that on December 30 Reporters Without Borders will publish its annual round up for 2010, which presents the number of bloggers attacked, arrested and jailed, as well as the number of countries who practice a form of Internet censorship.

Clothilde Le Coz has been working for Reporters Without Borders in Paris since 2007. She is now the Washington director for this organization, helping to promote press freedom and free speech around the world. In Paris, she was in charge of the Internet Freedom desk and worked especially on China, Iran, Egypt and Thailand. During the time she spent in Paris, she was also updating the "Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents," published in 2005. Her role is now to get the message out for readers and politicians to be aware of the constant threat journalists are submitted to in many countries.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

October 21 2010

18:26

2010 Press Freedom Index Shows Europe on Decline

Reporters Without Borders yesterday released its 2010 World Press Freedom Index. Thirteen of the EU's 27 members are in the top 20 in terms of press freedoms, but some of the other EU nations are very low. The European Union has had a reputation for valuing and respecting human rights, and new data suggests that reputation is at risk.

RSF top 10.jpg

"We must salute the engines of press freedom, with Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland at their head," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard. "We must also pay homage to the human rights activists, journalists and bloggers throughout the world who bravely defend the right to speak out."

Many Northern European nations, such as Finland, the Netherlands and Norway, have remained at the top of the ranking thanks to their strong protections for media institutions and journalists. But overall the freedom of expression model in Europe is weakening, and part of the reason is an ongoing effort to implement online content filtering, restrict file-sharing and other related measures.

Along with those developments, Ireland is still punishing blasphemy with a 25,000 Euro fine, the U.K. continues to keep outdated and worrying defamation laws on the books. Plus, Italy and France have seen their political leaders interfere with press activity. It seems that the legislative aspect is the most significant when it comes to Europe losing its world leader human rights status.

EU's Gallo Report

As I mentioned in my previous post for MediaShift, Reporters Without Borders is concerned that France might sacrifice online freedom for the sake of security by implementing a new Internet filtering system. The goal of the legislation is to limit access to pedophile and porn sites. Filtering is a widespread practice today in Europe, and can be very harmful to Internet users if badly implemented. It can also have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.

gallo-report.png

In late September, the European Union adopted the Gallo Report, which made several suggestions about how the EU can better defend intellectual property rights and combat piracy. For Reporters Without Borders, the measures outlined in the report represent a repressive approach that violates the right of Internet users in part because it ignores the fact that legal file-sharing exists and fosters online creativity.

"The Gallo Report is an illustration of the will of the entertainment industry to try to impose private copyright police," said Jérémie Zimmermann, founder of the advocacy group La Quadrature du Net. "Repressive schemes such as the 'three strikes' policies and other Internet access restrictions negate fundamental rights, such as the right to a fair trial, the freedom of communication or the right to privacy."

EU members have begun implementing the Gallo Report, in spite of court rulings that go against its recommendations. Earlier this month, Ireland's High Court in Ireland ruled against three major record labels who wanted to see a "three strikes" policy implemented against Internet users who possess or share illegally downloaded content.

"The High Court ruled that laws to identify and cut off Internet users illegally copying music files were not enforceable in Ireland," according to the Irish Times.

However, the biggest ISP in the country is still implementing a three strikes policy by sending warning letters to those identified as illegal file-sharers. So does France, but Mark Mulligan, an analyst with research firm Forrester, told the BBC it is unlikely to happen in the U.K.

European Decline

When it comes to Internet filtering, file sharing and related issues, Europe is home to varying policies and laws. That's why one of the problems with the Gallo Report is how vague it is. This leads to a situation wherein nations in Northern Europe can be at the forefront of press freedom and online rights while its neighbors rank much lower. The two issues are of course closely related in the Internet age.

Overall, press freedom in Europe is on the decline, and we are far from reaching a consensus on how free European citizens can be to use the Internet.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

September 29 2010

10:32

August 18 2010

08:59

Press freedom group reaffirms support for WikiLeaks after criticisms

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has “reaffirmed” its support for WikiLeaks, following their publication of an open letter to the whisteblowing site accusing it of being irresponsible in its publication of the Afghanistan war logs.

RSF says its criticisms of the way the material was made public do not mean it supports any kind of censorship of the group, an “unfair accusation” it claims has been made by online papers reporting the story.

We reaffirm our support for WikiLeaks, its work and its founding principles. It is thanks in large part to WikiLeaks that the world has seen the failures of the wars waged by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan (…) A media is responsible for what it publishes or disseminates. To remind it of that is not to wish its disappearance. Quite the contrary.

See their full post here…Similar Posts:



August 02 2010

15:53

Afghanistan government criticised for closing down TV station

Press freedom groups have condemned a decision by the Afghan government to close down privately-owned TV station Emroz.

According to a BBC report, the government closed down the station which is owned by MP Najibulla Kabuli for allegedly fueling religious tensions.

The Committee to Protect Journalists urged the government to put the station back on air while Reporters Without Borders added that the move breaks media law.

The government must not under any circumstances violate the media law, which gives the media commission sole decision-making authority when a media commits an offence. We call on the government to rescind these decisions and never interfere in the content of Afghan TV stations again.

See the RWB full post here…Similar Posts:



May 06 2010

19:05

China Tightens Media Control at Shanghai Expo

In honour of the Expo Shanghai China, the biggest display of Chinese might since the 2008 Olympic Games, Reporters Without Borders is inviting Internet users to visit a page on its website, the "Garden of Freedoms," that's dedicated to the freedoms that are often oppressed in China.

Hundreds of countries, regions and corporations are participating in this exhibition, but none of them have dared to make free expression part of their pavilions for fear of upsetting the Chinese authorities. Those authorities issued a directive on the eve of the opening of the Expo that said:

As regards the activities of the central authorities during the Shanghai Expo, all the media must use the reports of the Xinhua central news agency or other central media outlets. The other media must not publish their own reports and must not ask national leaders questions during their visits to Shanghai.

It added: "As regards the inaugural ceremony, you must respect the already established rules. It is forbidden to express reservations and if any incident suddenly takes place, it is forbidden to report it without permission or to publish any comment."

106 Netizens and Journalists in Jail

img-expo.jpgThat kind of control and repression is commonplace in China. As of today, 106 netizens and reporters are in jail there because they tried to challenge the kind of rules expressed in the directive. China has more people in prison for exercising freedom of expression than any other country in the world.

In light of that fact, Reporters Without Borders is asking Americans to sponsor at least one of these prisoners. By adding your name to a list of a prisoner's supporters, you receive updates on their situation and help create awareness about the importance of their release.

'State Secret' Gets Wide Definition

Chinese authorities often use the "state secret" excuse to justify jailing dissidents and journalists. Of course, the definition of "state secret" is very broad and leaves the door open to all sorts of abuses.

In the latest expansion of this tool for repression, on April 29 China adopted an amendment to the State Secrets Law that forces Internet and telecommunications companies to cooperate closely with the authorities on matters relating to national security.

Under the amendment, which will take effect on October 1, these companies are required to block transmission of state secrets over their networks, to keep records of the activity, and alert authorities to possible violations. They could also be forced to suppress certain kinds of content.

In reality, these companies already cooperate with the authorities on national security matters. Will this new amendment require them to be more pro-active, and therefore engage in tighter censorship? The law also doesn't say if foreign companies in these sectors are impacted.

The Propaganda Department, which is loyal to President Hu Jintao, whom Reporters Without Borders deemed a Predator of Press Freedom, has also launched a new offensive against the "hostile forces" that are allegedly using the Internet to destabilize China.

Wang Chen, the number two leader in the department, has urged parliamentarians to adopt an Internet Administration Law in order to block "dangerous reports" and prevent "infiltration of the Internet by hostile forces."

These issues are the backdrop for Expo Shanghai China, which has the slogan "Better city, better life." A more apt motto would be "Censored city, censored life."

Clothilde Le Coz has been working for Reporters Without Borders in Paris since 2007. She is now the Washington director for this organization, helping to promote press freedom and free speech around the world. In Paris, she was in charge of the Internet Freedom desk and worked especially on China, Iran, Egypt and Thailand. During the time she spent in Paris, she was also updating the "Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents," published in 2005. Her role is now to get the message out for readers and politicians to be aware of the constant threat journalists are submitted to in many countries.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

April 05 2010

23:39

Reporters Without Borders Issues 'Enemies of the Internet' List

On March 12, 2010, Reporters Without Borders celebrated World Day Against Cyber Censorship. The goal of the event was to rally everyone in support of a single Internet that is unrestricted and accessible to all. It is also meant to draw attention to the fact that, by creating new spaces for exchanging ideas and information, the Internet is a force for freedom. However, more and more governments have realized this and are reacting by trying to control the Internet.

Reporters Without Borders issued its latest list of Enemies of the Internet. This list points the finger at countries such as Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Tunisia that restrict online access and harass their netizens. A list of countries that have been placed "under surveillance" for displaying a disturbing attitude toward the Internet was also released. We can of course easily figure out that China and Iran will once again have one of the worse scores in terms of Internet freedom.

What Does Internet Enemy Mean?

Two main criterias have been selected to define a country as such. First, we count the number of netizens arrested, harassed or threatened in the past year. As of now, more than 100 of them are in jail because of their online activities. The biggest prison for cyber-dissidents by far is China, with 72 of them behind bars, mostly charged with "divulging state secrets abroad." The Chinese authorities have quickly forgotten that the Internet is supposed to have no geographical borders.

internet enemies.jpg

Then, RSF looks at the way that governments monitor the Internet and limit access. For example, Iran has been censoring millions of web pages and limiting the connection speed to make the information less accessible, especially when it comes to the protest movement after elections last year.

And this year, Reporters Without Borders also chose to award the first "Netizen Prize," with support from Google. The prize was awarded to the Iranian women's rights activists of the Change for Equality website, which has made a notable contribution to the defense of online freedom of expression. This is also a way to show that Internet firms are aware of the role they play abroad, especially in countries where the Internet access is restricted.

Google raised awareness of the issue when it announced that it would not censor its search engine results on Google.cn. But this decision also showed that Internet firms doing business in such repressive countries need protection from their own government. Another U.S. company, GoDaddy, announced during a U.S. Congressional hearing that it will stop selling websites with Chinese domain names (those ending in the .cn suffix) because of the controls being demanded by Chinese authorities.

What about the U.S.?

Besides the involvement of Internet firms in repressive countries that help local governments censor online information or restrict the access to it, the U.S. government is not reproach-free when it comes to online free speech.

First, the whole process of adopting a federal shield law to protect reporters' sources has slowed down because of a "blogger issue." The House version of the bill, adopted in April 2009, excludes many bloggers from its protection, limiting the shield to those who gather or report news "for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain." The Senate version has oscillated, with amateurs getting cut in September 2009 and added back in November in a version that looks to the function of disseminating news to the public rather than pay status. And when the bill passed out of the Senate judiciary committee in December, there was an abortive attempt to take non-professionals out again, but it failed.

The U.S. also has had trouble protecting Net neutrality. It is a principle that advocates no online restrictions on content, sites or platforms; on the kinds of equipment that may be attached; on the modes of communication allowed; as well as communication that is not unreasonably degraded by other traffic. Although President Obama took a very clear stance on Net neutrality on February 1, saying that he was a "big believer in Net neutrality," the Obama administration and its allies at the Federal Communications Commission are retreating from a militant version of Net neutrality regulations. This Net neutrality issue, if not adopted, will directly affect the way the information is selected on the web and therefore accessible to the reader.

When it comes to Internet freedom, restricted online access is not necessarily linked to the most repressive regimes. Preserving online free speech and access to online information should be a top priority for the American government, as a pioneer of the Internet and its regulation.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

March 12 2010

15:00

Marking the World Day Against Cyber Censorship

“Against the enemies of the internet”  – this is the short but incisive message for today’s World Day Against Cyber Censorship, organised by press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary-general of RSF, explains the day in this video:

To mark the day, RSF has published an article, ‘Web 2.0 versus Control 2.0′, emphasising the idea of the internet as a force for democracy and freedom.

The fight for free access to information is being played out to an ever greater extent on the Internet. The emerging general trend is that a growing number of countries are attempting to tighten their control of the net, but at the same time, increasingly inventive ‘netizens’ demonstrate mutual solidarity by mobilizing when necessary.

Last night RSF, with support from Google, awarded the inaugural Netizen Prize to the Iranian creators of website Change for Equality, “a well-known source of information on women’s rights in Iran [...] and rallying point for opponents of the regime.”

Similar Posts:



January 18 2010

09:55

RSF creates centre of operations for Haitian journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is to set up a centre of operations for Haitian journalists in Port-au-Prince with the aim of enabling them “to cover the situation and thereby assist the process of providing assistance to the population”.

[T]he centre will be equipped with laptops, mobile phones and generators provided by the leading Canadian media group Quebecor, Reporters Without Borders’ partner in this initiative.

(…)

The creation of this centre of operations will be followed by reconstruction assistance – again in partnership with Quebecor – for Haiti’s media, which are virtually all currently unable to function. This will be one of the targets of the donations raised by the appeal already issued by Reporters Without Borders.

Full story at this link…

Similar Posts:



January 12 2010

00:37

2009 Was a Terrible Year for Free Speech Online

2009 was an unprecedented year for online repression.

For the first time since the Internet emerged as a tool for public use, there are currently 100 bloggers and cyber-dissidents imprisoned worldwide as a result of posting their opinions online in 2009, according to Reporters Without Borders. This figure is indicative of the severity of the crackdowns being carried out in roughly 10 countries around the world. (In one example, Burma handed out long prison sentences to online dissidents.)

The number of countries pursuing online censorship doubled in the past year -- a disturbing trend that suggests governments seek to increase their control over new media. In total, 151 bloggers and cyber-dissidents were arrested in 2009, and 61 were physically assaulted.

The crackdown on bloggers and ordinary citizens who express themselves online comes at the same time that social networking and interactive websites have become extremely popular, not to mention powerful vehicles for free expression.

China Still Leads in Online Censorship

China was once again the leading Internet censor in 2009. Countries such as Iran, Tunisia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan also blocked websites and blogs, and engaged in surveillance of online expression. In Turkmenistan, for example, the Internet remains under total state control. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer is still in jail, while the famous Burmese comedian Zarganar still has 34 years left on his prison sentence. These are but a few examples.

The list of approximately 120 victims of Internet censorship in 2009 also includes leading figures in the defense of online free speech, such as China's Hu Jia and Liu Xiaobo, and Vietnam's Nguyen Trung and Dieu Cay.

People are usually targeted because they speak out on political matters, but the global financial crisis is also on the list of subjects likely to provoke online censorship. In South Korea, a blogger was wrongfully detained for commenting on the country's disastrous economic situation. Roughly six people 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 media in Dubai when it came time for them to report on the country's debt repayment problems.

Overall, wars and elections constituted the chief threats to journalists and bloggers in 2009. It is becoming more risky to cover wars because journalists themselves are being targeted for murder and kidnappings. It's also just as dangerous for reporters in some countries to do their job at election time. Journalists have ended up in prison or in a hospital thanks to their election reporting. Violence before and after elections was particularly prevalent in 2009 inside countries with poor democratic credentials.

Iran Election Crackdown

Iran saw the most violence, censorship and arrests due to an election. Its elections this past summer saw more than 100 arrests, and many prison sentences handed down. The country, which is on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Enemies of the Internet," has also deployed a sophisticated system of Internet filtering and monitoring, especially in recent months. The country's main ISPs depend on the Telecommunication Company of Iran, which recently came under control of the Revolutionary Guard, and does not hesitate to flout international treaties or to restrict the free flow of information.

Within hours of the announcement of President Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad's election "victory," journalists were being arrested by the intelligence ministry, Revolutionary Guard, and other security services. Most were taken to Tehran's Evin prison. At least 100 journalists and bloggers have been arrested since June, and 27 are still being held. Today, Iran is one of the world's five biggest imprisoners of journalists.

Since the election, national and international media in Iran have been subject to massive and systematic censorship that is without precedent. For the first time since the 1979 revolution, the security services are vetting the content of newspapers before they're published.

The Iranian regime's offensive against online free expression took a new direction in December after Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi announced he was going to prosecute two conservative websites for "insulting" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile, several Internet service providers cut access to prevent political opponents from disseminating information during opposition demonstrations on December 27. After the demonstrations, the intelligence ministry and Revolutionary Guard began rounding up government opponents and journalists, arresting an estimated 20 people in the latest wave. Those targeted included a dozen or so journalists and cyber-dissidents. Alireza Behshtipour Shirazi, the editor of Kaleme.org (opposition leader Mirhossein Moussavi's official website), was arrested at his Tehran home and taken to an unknown place of detention.

Trouble in Democratic Countries

Democratic countries have also enacted online censorship. Several European nations are working on new steps to control the Internet in what they say is a campaign against child porn and illegal downloads. Australia is also planning to set up a compulsory filtering system that poses a threat to freedom of expression.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy announced in December that, after a year of testing in partnership with Australian Internet service providers, the government will introduce legislation imposing mandatory filtering of websites with pornographic, pedophilic or particularly violent content.

Google Australia's head of policy, Iarla Flynn, raised concerns, saying, "Moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy-handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information." In a Fairfax Media poll of 20,000 Australians, 96 percent strongly opposed a mandatory Internet filtering system.

Yet that proposal -- as well as many others around the world -- continues to move ahead. Hopefully, 2010 will be a better year for free speech online.

Clothilde Le Coz has been working for Reporters Without Borders in Paris since 2007. She is now the Washington director for this organization, helping to promote press freedom and free speech around the world. In Paris, she was in charge of the Internet Freedom desk and worked especially on China, Iran, Egypt and Thailand. During the time she spent in Paris, she was also updating the "Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents," published in 2005. Her role is now to get the message out for readers and politicians to be aware of the constant threat journalists are submitted to in many countries.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl