Sorry folks, got a little behind in my review of material from Freedom House. (And if you haven’t visited their web site, you should. FH has the infamous Index of Freedom and Freedom of the Press Index. Both are necessary readings for anyone interested in international affairs.)
I’ll just take the introduction straight from the FH web site:
In conjunction with the release of Freedom of the Press 2010, Freedom House hosted a panel discussion in the Knight Studio at the Newseum. The panel, titled “Censorship Without Borders,” focused on new and innovative tactics used by non-democratic governments (and some democratic governments as well) to restrict freedom of expression, outside of their borders as well as within. Panelists included Bob Boorstin, Director of Corporate and Policy Communications at Google; Frank Smyth, Washington Representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists; Christopher Walker, Director of Studies at Freedom House; and Karin Karlekar, Managing Editor of Freedom of the Press. Below are a series of video excerpts from the panelists, covering a number of issues that have a cross-border impact on freedom of expression including violence against journalists, the use of libel laws to discourage the expression of opposing views and growing censorship on the internet.
Topics such as censorship in China, defamation, libel, violence against journalists and much more are covered in several different video snippets.
Well worth a visit.
The ongoing blockage of Facebook and Twitter in China continues to be a problem for freedom of expression in that country. Now add to that shutdowns of Twitter-like sites.
[F]our major Twitter-like micro-blogging services providing only limited services due to “maintenance” or “testing” – often euphemisms for strengthening internal self-censorship systems following government pressure; restrictions on at least one Chinese micro-blogging platform being able to link to any overseas websites—including non political sites like Geico Insurance; and the shutdown of an estimated 60 plus blogs by prominent legal and political commentators.
China has one of the most sophisticated Internet blocking operations in the world. It reaches down into the ISP level to make sure “improper” information is not provided to the Chinese Internet community. The technology seems to be mostly home-grown.
Clearly, the Chinese development of Internet censorship requires a lot of people — there are a lot of ISPs in the country. But China has a lot of people. So Internet censorship can easily be seen as a full-employment program by the central government.
Compare how China does it with Iran — another country that is nervous about the Internet.
Thanks to technology — hardware and software – purchased from Western Europe, Iran blocks sites such as Twitter and Google at the point where the Internet connection enters the country.
Back to China, Freedom House says the censorship of the Internet is an issue the international community can no longer ignore.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to control the internet affect much more than just its own citizens,” said Robert Guerra, director of Freedom House’s internet freedom project. “In addition to its domestic censorship practices, a growing number of sophisticated technical attacks are originating in China against organizations and companies outside of its borders.”
And let us not forget that the European Community is also looking at Chinese Internet censorship as a barrier to free trade.
Freedom House put together a travelogue of the least free places. Foreign Policy magazine picked it up and posted it online with pictures and commentary.
A very interesting read.
And one of the key things about all these “wonderful” garden spots is the lack of free media. Phrases such as “the government controls all broadcast media and restricts independent print publications” or “a monopoly of political power” or “human rights defenders, and others continue to face harassment and arbitrary detention and torture” are common in each country.
Proof once again — as if any was needed — that political freedom and press freedom go hand in hand.