- Associated Press - Monday, March 12, 2012

PARIS — The Arab Spring is changing the face of Internet freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders, which released its latest “Enemies of the Internet” list Monday.

The annual report classifies as “enemies” countries that severely curtail freedom of expression on and access to the Web. It also draws up a list of states “under surveillance.”

The group added Bahrain to its enemies list, citing a news blackout and harassment of bloggers in an attempt to quell a yearlong Shiite-led rebellion against the Sunni monarchy. The country previously was under surveillance.

“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 … prosecutions and defamation campaigns against free expression activists, disruption of communications,” the Paris-based group’s report said.

But the Arab Spring - the name given to a cascade of revolts across the Arab world - also has led some countries to become more open.

Libya, where the repressive rule of Moammar Gadhafi was thrown off in a violent revolt, was removed from the list of countries under surveillance.

“In Libya, many challenges remain but the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime has ended an era of censorship,” the report said.

The group said the Arab Spring also highlighted the importance of the Internet and, therefore, the importance of protecting access to and expression on it.

The enemies list contains countries that are known for blocking Internet content, such as China, Myanmar and North Korea.

The list of those under surveillance contains some surprises, including Australia and France.

The group criticized Australia for persuading Internet service providers to create a national content-filtering system that blocks access to child pornography sites and others deemed inappropriate.

The group is concerned that the government also is still pursuing a system of mandatory content-filtering whose criteria are “very broad.”

France landed on the surveillance list last year for a series of criminal indictments of journalists for articles they wrote.

It remains on the list this year because of a law that could cut off Internet access to users who repeatedly download content illegally.



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