Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Internet under surveillance 2004, Obstacles to the free flow of information online

Reporters sans frontières - The Internet under surveillance 2004:
"The Internet has a bad reputation. With authoritarian regimes, that's no surprise. It's to be expected the enduring dictatorship in Beijing (and we must call it that, whatever the fans of the Chinese 'economic miracle' think) has set up a big Internet police force. Dozens of Internet users languish in Chinese prisons for imaginary crimes - for looking at banned websites or, even 'worse,' daring to post news online about forbidden topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and repression in Tibet.

China is unfortunately not the only country where dissident Internet messages are tracked down. In Vietnam and Tunisia, big shots (official or otherwise) are distinctly unenthusiastic about this vast discussion forum and information exchange they have so much trouble controlling.

In this very long list of regimes opposed to freedom, we find habitual human rights violators such as Burma, Ukraine and Belarus but also countries that are places people dream about - tropical holiday destinations beloved of Western tourists. The Maldives, for example, where the other side of the picture postcard is shabby and two Internet users have been sentenced to life imprisonment for criticising a dictatorship in paradise that has been in power for the past 40 years."

This is all very logical. No surprise that Fidel Castro gives orders about the Internet as he does about everything else in Cuba, except of course for those "useful idiots" (as Lenin used to say) - the package tourists with cigars and obliging local girls thrown in.

What's more worrying, at first sight anyway, is the distrust of the Internet among the supposedly solid democracies of Europe and North America. Why the United States, France and the United Kingdom take their place in this report alongside the thugs that are quick to lock up the merest opponent calls for an explanation.
con·cept: The Internet under surveillance 2004, Obstacles to the free flow of information online