World Day Against Cyber-Censorship: new "Enemies of the Internet" list
Reporters Without Borders has carried out a new survey of online freedom of expression for World Day Against Cyber-Censorship on 12 March.
"One in three of the world’s Internet users does not have access to an unrestricted Internet," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. Around 60 countries censor the Internet to varying degrees and harass netizens. At least 119 people are currently in prison just for using the Internet to express their views freely. These are disturbing figures.
"The Internet played a crucial role in the recent Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions but more and more governments try to manipulate online information and remove critical content. There is a greater need than ever to defend online free speech and protect cyber-dissidents. This day is also the occasion to pay tribute to the solidarity that Internet users show towards each other."
Enemies of the Internet
Reporters Without Borders is releasing a 100-page report on the state of online freedom of expression in the 10 countries it has identified as "Enemies of the Internet" and the 16 countries it is keeping "under surveillance" because of their questionable Internet policies. Repressive regimes resort to all sorts of measures to control content, ranging from censorship, jailing cyber-dissidents and circulating massive amounts of propaganda online.
"Tunisia and Egypt have been removed from the list of Enemies of the Internet following the fall of their governments," Julliard added. "These countries nonetheless remain under surveillance, as does Libya. The gains of these revolutions must be consolidated and the new freedoms must be guaranteed. We have also placed some democracies – including Australia, South Korea and France – under surveillance because of various measures they have taken that could have negative consequences for online free expression and Internet access."
A dedicated website for the campaign
For World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders has created a dedicated website where Internet users can download a graphic representing the defence of online free expression, view a film made for the occasion by French illustrator Joel Guenoun and consult the map of Internet black holes.
Internet users are urged to circulate this information on social networks, blogs and websites that support imprisoned netizens. They may also use the graphic, which is available in a score of languages (including Chinese, Arabic, Burmese, Turkmen, Farsi and Russian) as an image for their profiles in Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
2010 – Year of the Internet? Last year saw the Internet and social networks conclusively established as tools for protest, campaigning and circulating information. It also saw a growing tendency for traditional and new media to complement each other, as witnessed not only during the Arab Spring but also in the way WikiLeaks released the leaked US diplomatic cables in coordination with several leading international media.
The Internet continues above all to be a tool, one that can be used for good ends and bad. It creates an area of freedom in the most closed countries. Its potential as a tool for circulating news and information angers dictators and renders traditional censorship methods ineffective. The Internet is used not only by dissidents but also by governments, which employ it to circulate their propaganda and to reinforce surveillance and control of the population.
The Internet strategies pursued nowadays by authoritarian regimes consist not so much of outright blocking as online manipulation and propaganda. Countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to filter out vast amounts of content, reinforcing the filtering at times of tension, but Internet users in these countries continue to learn how to circumvent censorship.
Tunisian blog Nawaat awarded 2011 Netizen Prize
On the eve of the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders Friday awarded its 2011 Netizen Prize to the founders of a Tunisian blogging group named Nawaat.
The Netizen Prize goes to a Netizen - a blogger, online journalist or cyber-dissident - who has helped to promote freedom of expression on the Internet. The winner receives 2,500 euros in prize money. Google sponsors the annual award.
Nawaat won against finalists from Bahrain, Belarus, Thailand, China and Vietnam. An independent jury of press specialists determined the winner.
Dominique Gerbaud, Reporters Without Borders President, Jean-François Julliard, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general and Google President for Southern and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa Carlo d’Asaro Biondo spoke at the award ceremony in Paris. Doctors Without Borders founder and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner gave the prize to Nawaat’s co-founder Riadh Guerfali (Astrubal) at a ceremony in Paris at the Salon des Miroirs.
Created in 2004, Nawaat.org is an independent collective blog operated by Tunisian bloggers as a platform for all "committed citizens." It played a crucial role in covering the social and political unrest in Tunisia that began on December 17. Astrubal and Sami Ben Gharbia, two well-known bloggers who post regularly on the site.
The site recently created a special page for the WikiLeaks revelations about Tunisia, and another one about the recent events in Sidi Bouzid, which were not covered in the traditional media. It also warns Internet users about the dangers of being identified online and offers advice about circumventing censorship.
"We are deeply honoured by this prize. It will help to strengthen the citizen journalism that we have been practicing for years at Nawaat, despite all the risks involved", said Riadh Guerfali. "This award is not only a tribute to Nawaat but to all our fellow journalists who often risk their lives to keep working in countries where freedom of expression is suppressed."
Google’s President for Southern and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa Biondo saluted the Tunisan winners. "We are sponsoring this event and this prize because it defends our company’s core values to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful," Mr. d’Asaro Biondo said. "Our company is built on the free exchange of information."
Doctors Without Borders founder and former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will be a special guest. "Dictatorships define themselves through censorship, press bans and arrests of journalists," said Mr Kouchner.
Read all about world day against cybercensorship: http://march12.rsf.org/en