Bahrain and Belarus have been added to Reporters Without Borders’ annual list of “enemies of the internet” They join 10 other nations on the campaign group’s register of states that restrict net access, filter content and imprison bloggers.
India and Kazakhstan have also joined RWB’s list of “countries under surveillance” because of concerns that they are becoming more repressive. The body says 2011 was the “deadliest year” yet for so-called “netizens”. It says at least 199 arrests of internet campaigners were recorded over the year – a 31% increase on 2010. It adds that China, followed by Vietnam and Iran currently hold the largest number of netizens in jail.
“Enemies of the internet”
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
Bahrain’s government expressed a number of concerns about the report, which it said failed to “present the reality of the situation” there.
Several positive steps had been taken towards reforming the media sector since the publication of a report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) into last year’s crackdown on anti-government protests, it said, including relaxing censorship and increasing the range of political opinions in the media.
In Belarus, the campaign group says, President Alexander Lukashenko’s government has increased the number of blocked websites and arrested some bloggers while inviting others to “preventative conversations” with the police during which they are pressured not to cover protests.
It says the regime has also used Twitter to send messages designed to intimidate demonstrators. It adds that the country’s main internet service provider has diverted users to sites containing malware when they tried to log into the Vkontakte social network.
Elsewhere RWB accuses China and Syria of hiring bloggers to troll sites containing posts from cyber-dissidents, and then flood the pages with messages supporting the governments.
It raises concern that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced plans to create a “clean” web with its own search engine and messaging service, and says Vietnam has attacked Catholic networks and campaigners trying to raise awareness about environmentally damaging bauxite mines.