March 12 is World Day Against Cyber-Censorship. To mark the day, the watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders published its “Enemies of the Internet” list. Not surprisingly, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan ranked among the worst of the worst.
Reporters Without Borders characterized Turkmenistan as among “the countries most hostile to freedom of expression.” It also said Asghabat is “imposing drastic censorship,” adding that only 2.2 percent of the population enjoys regular access to the Internet. On the bright side, the report noted that the Abadan tragedy last July offered an instance in which citizen journalists were able to circumvent government controls, at least temporarily, and transmit information about the event to the outside world.
“After initially covering up this [Abadan] incident, the authorities were eventually obliged to acknowledge it, though they tried to minimize it. But they quickly reacted by launching a wave of seizures, interrogations and incarcerations, though how many is still unknown,” the report states.
Commenting on Uzbekistan, Reporters Without Borders said officials in Tashkent, along with leaders in other authoritarian-minded states, stepped up their oversight of the Internet in response to the Arab Spring of early 2011.
“The [Uzbek] authorities are increasingly cracking down on technical intermediaries, ”the report said. “ISPs and mobile phone operators are now required to report mass mailings of “suspicious content,” and to disconnect their networks at the authorities’ simple request. The objective is clear: to prevent any mass distributions and rallies.”
Via Jenny White's Kamil Pasha blog, I just came across the incredible Mashallah News website, which reports on culture, art, politics and lots of other things from several Middle Eastern cities. Their Istanbul section is particularly engaging, with photoessays and videos that explore the outer edges of Turkish culture and go beneath the surface of current events. Highly recommended.
Add the popular Blogger blogging service to the long list of sites currently banned in Turkey. Following a decision by a Turkish court, access to the site -- and all the blogs it hosts, including some 600,000 in Turkey -- is currently blocked to internet users within Turkey.
The decision appears to be based on a claim made by a cable television provider, which is worried that some Turkish blogs are showing footage from Turkish football/soccer matches that it has the exclusive right to broadcast. Turkey's problematic internet laws allow for entire websites to be banned, rather than just the pages that have been judged to commit an offense. As one critic put it, it's like shutting down an entire nation's phone system because a few people used their phones to plan criminal activity. More details on the Blogger ban here and on Turkey's troubling internet laws here.
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