According to the rights organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), present at the Re:publica digital media conference in Berlin, about 120 bloggers and online reporters are currently in jail because of their work.
More than half of them are imprisoned in China, one of the countries most criticized for its rigid online censorship. Last month, RSF welcomed Google’s decision to stop censoring its Chinese language search engine and to move its operations to Hong Kong.
“Companies who obey the demands of oppressive regimes are accomplices to censorship,” said Lucie Morillon, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ new media desk. “They are helping to silence basically those people who want to express dissident views. They are helping regimes to stay in place.”
Lucie Morillon, head of the New Media desk at Reporters Without Borders talks about internet censorship at Re:publica conference Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Reporters Without Borders’ Lucie Morillon, says many companies help state censorsMorillon hopes that other major international players follow Google’s lead, especially Yahoo, which has a history of collaborating with the Chinese authorities. In 2005 it handed over information that resulted in the imprisonment of a Chinese activist for 10 years.
In recent weeks more allegations against Yahoo have surfaced. Morillon said the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China reported “13 cases of foreign reporters whose accounts have been hacked.”
…In 2009, more than 60 countries experienced some form of internet censorship, according to Reporters without Borders. In March, RSF published a list of 12 so-called “enemies of the Internet,” which are countries that seriously violate their citizens’ free speech online.
Apart from China and Iran, the list also includes Saudi Arabia, Burma, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Cuba and Egypt, who use a range of measures from Internet filtering and blocking Web sites, to imprisoning bloggers and journalists.
With 70 million people writing over 700,000 blogs, Iran has a strong Internet presence. Twenty-seven-year-old Farnaz Seifi, was one of the first Iranian women to start her own blog seven years ago. She worked for many years as a women’s rights activist and journalist in reformist newspapers, which were shut down. Seifi now lives in the Netherlands.
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Seifi has noticed the Iranian government’s increasingly sophisticated range of strategies to suppress freedom of speech, including using blogs.
“Three years ago suddenly we had this huge wave of Muslim bloggers, very religious ones, very loyal to the Islamic Republic. And they are working for spreading the propaganda of the Islamic Republic regime,” she said. “So it shows that the government of Iran thought, ‘If we want to control them, we need to be active in what we are doing as well and spreading our own propaganda’.”