Australia is being monitored by an
organisation dedicated to freedom of information, because of its plans to
introduce compulsory Internet filtering. New Zealand, however, is listed as
having a “good situation” (a voluntary system aimed at filtering child abuse
sites has just been implemented here).
Reporters without Borders has launched World Day Against
Cyber Censorship, a global event designed to raise awareness of censorship on
the Internet. The organisation marked the occasion by issuing 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 online communities. A list of countries that have been placed
“under surveillance” for displaying a disturbing attitude towards the Internet
was also released.
“In 2009, some 60 countries experienced a form of Web
censorship, which is twice as many as in 2008,” Reporters Without Borders said
in a statement. “The World Wide Web is being progressively devoured by the
implementation of national Intranets whose content is ‘approved’ by the
“Netizens are being targeted at a growing rate. For the
first time since the creation of the Internet, a record number of close to 120
bloggers, Internet users and cyberdissidents are behind bars for having
expressed themselves freely online. The world’s largest netizen prison is in
China, which is far out ahead of other countries with 72 detainees, followed by
Vietnam and then by Iran, which have all launched waves of brutal attacks on
websites in recent months.
“More and more states are enacting or considering repressive
laws pertaining to the Web, or are applying those that already exist, which is
the case with Jordan, Kazakhstan, and Iraq. Western democracies are not immune
from the Net regulation trend. In the name of the fight against child pornography
or the theft of intellectual property, laws and decrees have been adopted, or
are being deliberated, notably in Australia, France, Italy and Great Britain.
On a global scale, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), whose aim is
to fight counterfeiting, is being negotiated behind closed doors, without
consulting NGOs and civil society. It could possibly introduce potentially
liberticidal measures such as the option to implement a filtering system
without a court decision.
“The ‘Enemies of the Internet’ list drawn up again this year
by Reporters Without Borders presents the worst violators of freedom of
expression on the Net: Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt,
Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
“Some of these countries are determined to use any means
necessary to prevent their citizens from having access to the Internet: Burma,
North Korea, Cuba, and Turkmenistan – countries in which technical and
financial obstacles are coupled with harsh crackdowns and the existence of a
very limited Intranet. Internet shutdowns or major slowdowns are commonplace in
periods of unrest. The Internet’s potential as a portal open to the world
directly contradicts the propensity of these regimes to isolate themselves from
“Among the countries ‘under surveillance’ are several
democracies: Australia, because of the upcoming implementation of a highly
developed Internet filtering system, and South Korea, where draconian laws are
creating too many specific restrictions on Web users by challenging their
anonymity and promoting self-censorship.”
The full report can be read here.