News

    Watchdog Group: Cyber Censorship a Growing Concern

    People use the Internet at a cafe in Pakistan where officials want to implement content filters, March 7, 2012.
    People use the Internet at a cafe in Pakistan where officials want to implement content filters, March 7, 2012.

    About one-third of the world's population has access to the Internet. In cyber-speak, that means there are currently more than 2 billion netizens, or people active on the World Wide Web.

    But not everyone enjoys the same degree of online access and freedom.

    RWB's 2012 Enemies of the Internet

    • Bahrain
    • Belarus
    • Burma
    • China
    • Cuba
    • Iran
    • North Korea
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Syria
    • Turkmenistan
    • Uzbekistan
    • Vietnam

    Delphine Halgand, Washington, D.C. director of Reporters Without Borders, says Internet censorship is an issue in more countries than ever before.

    "Last year will be remembered as one of unprecedented violence against netizens," she says. "Five netizens were killed while engaging in reporting activities and nearly 200 arrests of bloggers and netizens were reported in 2011, which is a 30 percent increase on 2010."

    According to its Internet freedoms report released Monday, the group says about 120 people are currently imprisoned because of online activities, and 12 countries as are identified as "enemies of the Internet." They are Bahrain, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

    "These countries are combining drastic content filtering with access restrictions, but they also track their cyber dissidents," she says. "I think that they will monitor what is happening online and use this surveillance information to arrest opponents who are expressing themselves online."

    Another 14 countries make the 2011 Reporters Without Borders' watch list, nations, including several major democracies, that exhibit signs of Internet restrictions or repression.

    Australia, for example, which has been on the watch list since 2009, presses Internet service providers to voluntarily block sites that show child pornography and sexual abuse, while officials in Canberra are discussing a mandatory filtering system.

    An official government statement says "some content has no place in a civilized society," and in 2010, communications minister Stephen Conroy told parliament the filter would block only material already banned on television, at magazine stands, and in book and video stores.

    Although the Internet is a new distribution platform, Conroy said, it should be held to the same standards Australians apply to other media platforms.

    But Reporters Without Borders is concerned that Australian officials might filter Web content by using overly broad criteria in a non-transparent manner.

    India, the world's most populous democracy, also made the watch list.

    "We observed that Indian authorities have stepped up Internet surveillance and pressure on technical service providers, even if, at the same time, authorities publicly reject accusations of censorship," says Halgand.

    According to Internet search engine giant Google, the Indian government submitted 67 requests to have 282 items of content removed in the second half of 2010, about 80 percent of which company officials refused to comply with on the grounds that items, many of which were YouTube videos criticizing Indian officials, didn't violate Google's content standards or local laws.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spoke passionately about Internet freedom at a conference last December in the Netherlands, has called securing peoples' rights in cyberspace an urgent task.

    "As people increasingly turn to the Internet to conduct important aspects of their lives, we have to make sure that human rights are as respected online as offline," she said.

    In the same speech, Clinton noted that the number of people on the Internet will more than double during the next 20 years, more than 1 billion of whom will be logging on from repressive countries.

    Recently, the state-run Pakistani Telecommunications Authority published a request for proposals to companies worldwide for what it called the “deployment and operation of a national level URL Filtering and Blocking System”. That would establish in a similar fashion to China's Golden Shield, or "Great Firewall of China".

    That proposal has drawn in attention of free speech groups, including the San Francisco based Committee to Protect Journalists. VOA’s Ira Mellman spoke with Danny O’Brien, CPJ’s Internet Advocacy Coordinator.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Gennady
    March 14, 2012 6:05 PM
    Putin’s Russia should be under the concern too. After my VOA & BBC comments on the state of basic human rights in Putin’s Russia & how the Constitution is violated in order to make Mr Putin President for life they made DDoS attacks on my PC & lately completely switched me off from my prepaid access to the Internet without any explanation.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora