Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has issued its annual compilation of bad actors — of which there are many — but has also noted the positive impact of the Arab Spring.
(Credit: Reporters Without Borders)
If you're reading this, odds are that you're not living in one of the dozen countries that Reporters Without Borders has included in its annual list of "enemies of the internet."
Each year, the media watchdog group issues a report calling out nations that restrict its citizens' freedom of information, as well as for curtailing their access to the Internet. As in previous reports, RWB chronicles the challenges faced by regular people who are trying to read and share information while living under regimes that are determined to restrict the free flow of communication.
The report paints a grim picture, recounting new instances of content removal, as well as the usual pressure on internet service providers (ISPs) as governments reach into what's now become a familiar grab bag of tactics to stifle domestic challenges. On the plus side, however, RWB points hopefully to the impact of the Arab Spring as a new force to be reckoned with.
"The Internet and social networks have been conclusively established as tools for protest, campaigning and circulating information, and as vehicles for freedom," the group said. "More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue."
There are some bright lights. For instance, this year's report does not include Libya, which has a new government following the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi. The report notes that while challenges remain, "the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime has ended an era of censorship".
On the flip side, Bahrain, which last year appeared in the section under counties "under surveillance", got added to the "enemies of the internet" list because of its news blackout and concomitant campaign of harassment against bloggers challenging the rule of that nation's monarchy.
"Bahrain offers a perfect example of successful crackdowns, with an information blackout achieved through an impressive arsenal of repressive measures: exclusion of the foreign media, harassment of human rights defenders, arrests of bloggers and netizens (one of whom died behind bars), prosecutions and defamation campaigns against free-expression activists, disruption of communications," RWB's report said.
Belarus was also moved from the "under surveillance" category to the "enemies of the internet". RWB reported an increase in the number of blocked websites in the country, as well as an uptick in the number of bloggers and internet users arrested for protesting the policies of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.
Interestingly, the list of nations under surveillance this year contains the likes of Australia and France.
Australia was singled out because of a nationwide content-filtering system implemented to combat child pornography that RWB criticised as being overly broad. And France got included in the surveillance list for the second year in a row — this time due to a law that would cut internet access to people found to have illegally downloaded songs and movies.
The list of "enemies" follows:
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia