Reporters Without Borders Lists 13 ‘Internet Enemies’

John Stuart
WASHINGTON — Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has released a list of 13 nations it considers “Internet enemies,” based on the repression of online free speech by their governments in 2006.

The nations on the list are Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

“North Korea continues to be the world’s worst Internet black hole,” the report said. “Only a few officials are able to access the web, using connections rented from China. It is hard to believe this is simply the result of economic difficulties in a country which today is capable of manufacturing nuclear warheads.”

The report names China as the most advanced country at Internet filtering, which enables the government to control the estimated 17 million bloggers now active there.

“China’s blog tools all include filters that block ‘subversive’ word strings,” the report said. “They employ armies of moderators to clean up the content produced by the bloggers. In a country in which 52 people are currently in prison for expressing themselves too freely online, self-censorship is obviously in full force.”

In Belarus, the government has a monopoly on telecommunications, and blocks access to opposition websites, often hacking independent online publications, according to the report.

The Burmese government is even more repressive than its neighbors in China and Vietnam, according to the report. Its military junta filters opposition websites and programs Internet café computers to automatically execute screen captures every five minutes, in order to monitor user activity.

“Iran today boasts of filtering 10 million ‘immoral’ websites,” the report said. “Pornographic sites, political sites and those dealing with religion are usually the ones most targeted.”

The report also singles out Syria as “the Middle East’s biggest prison for cyber dissidents with three people currently detained for criticizing authorities online.” Saudi Arabia made the list for its undisguised online censorship, and Tunisia’s Internet policies are “among the most repressive in the world,” according to the report.

Three countries—Libya, Maldives and Nepal—were removed from the “Internet enemies” list for ceasing or reducing Internet censorship.