CPJ names the worst online oppressors. Burma leads the dishonor roll. Booming online cultures in many Asian and Middle Eastern nations have led to aggressive government repression.
New York, April 30, 2009—With a military government that severely restricts Internet access and imprisons people for years for posting critical material, Burma is the worst place in the world to be a blogger, the Committee to Protect Journalists says in a new report. CPJ’s “10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger” also identifies a number of countries in the Middle East and Asia where Internet penetration has blossomed and government repression has grown in response.
“Bloggers are at the vanguard of the information revolution and their numbers are expanding rapidly,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon . “But governments are quickly learning how to turn technology against bloggers by censoring and filtering the Internet, restricting online access, and mining personal data. When all else fails, the authorities simply jail a few bloggers to intimidate the rest of the online community into silence or self-censorship.”
Relying on a mix of detentions, regulations, and intimidation, authorities in Iran , Syria , Saudi Arabia , Tunisia , and Egypt have emerged as the leading online oppressors in the Middle East and North Africa . China and Vietnam , where burgeoning blogging cultures have encountered extensive monitoring and restriction, are among Asia ’s worst blogging nations. Cuba and Turkmenistan , nations where Internet access is heavily restricted, round out the dishonor roll.
“The governments on this list are trying to roll back the information revolution, and, for now, they are having success,” Simon added. “Freedom of expression groups, concerned governments, the online community, and technology companies need to come together to defend the rights of bloggers around the world.”
CPJ issued its report to mark World Press Freedom Day, May 3, and to call attention to online repression, a great emerging threat to press freedom worldwide. CPJ considers bloggers whose work is reportorial or fact-based commentary to be journalists. In 2008, CPJ found, bloggers and other online journalists were the single largest professional group in prison, overtaking print and broadcast journalists for the first time.
In compiling this list, CPJ studied conditions for bloggers in countries around the world. CPJ staff consulted with Internet experts to develop eight criteria that included governments’ use of filtering, monitoring, and regulation; authorities’ use of imprisonments and other forms of legal harassment to deter critical blogging; and the extent and openness of Internet access. For further explanation of CPJ’s methodology
THE LIST 9. TURKMENISTAN
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov promised to open his isolated country to the world by providing public Internet access. But when the country’s first Internet café opened in 2007, it was guarded by soldiers, connections were uneven, the hourly fee was prohibitively high, and authorities monitored or blocked access to certain sites. The Russian telecommunications company MTS, which entered the Turkmen market in 2005, started offering Web access from mobile phones in June 2008, but service agreements require customers to avoid Web sites critical of the Turkmen government.
Lowlight: Turkmentelecom, the state Internet service provider, routinely blocks access to dissident and opposition sites, while it monitors e-mail accounts registered with Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail.
CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.