January 11, 2012 | By Jillian York

This Week in Censorship: Grave Threats to Netizens the World Over

Chinese netizen slapped with ten year sentence

China's repression of online dissent is no secret. The country leads the way in both sophistication and extent of its online censorship, and tops the list of countries that jail bloggers by a landslide.  In 2012, it would seem things are only getting worse.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), "online critic" Chen Xi, initially detained for activities unrelated to his writing, was sentenced to ten years in prison for "inciting subversion against state power" on December 26, with the court citing more than thirty articles published by Chen online. CPJ's Asia program coordinator Bob Dietz condemned the sentence, stating that it "indicates that Chinese authorities are tightening their control of dissent."

EFF condemns China's latest attempts at repressing online dissidents and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Bahraini human rights activist attacked

As Bahrain's uprising approaches its one-year anniversary, the government's crackdowns on activists--many of whom are well-known for their online activity--continues. In mid-December, Zainab Al-Khawaja (who tweets prolifically as @angryarabiya) was brutally arrested while taking part in a protest. Last Friday Nabeel Rajab, director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was injured when security forces attacked protesters in Manama. Rajab recently described his ordeal to Amnesty International.

While the attacks on Al-Khawaja and Rajab were not directly related to their online activism, reports indicate that Rajab's status as a prominent human rights activist may have worsened the attack. In a recent Al Jazeera article, Rajab stated that when he identified himself as Nabeel Rajab, "[riot police] beat me more."

The targeting of prominent human rights activists has had a chilling effect on Bahrain's lively blogosphere. EFF condemns the continuing repression of free expression in Bahrain.

Online journalist's murder has grave implications for free expression in Rwanda

The fatal December shooting of Rwandan online journalist Charles Ingabire, a fierce critic of the Kagame government, has raised criticism of the government for not doing enough to protect journalists. Though Ingabire was shot in neighboring Uganda, some Rwandan critics have suggested that Ingabire's murder was a political assassination motivated by his criticism of the government.

Ingabire is the second Rwandan journalist to be killed in less than two years. EFF echoes calls on the Ugandan government to identify the culprits and bring them to justice.

Turkish academics sign declaration in protest of new filters

Last week, we reported on the biases present in Turkey's new opt-in filtering system. Now, a group of fifteen Turkish academics have penned a declaration protesting the system, declaring the filter as "arbitrary, state-run, centralized censorship." The statement also alleged that the filter was limiting freedom of expression and is "being imposed across society."

Comparing Turkey's system to those administered by China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the campaigners also note that Turkey is the only OSCE member state applying a centralized filtering system.

As we've stated previously, filtering is costly, easy to circumvent, and often overbroad. In light of Turkey's history as a pervasive censor of the Internet, we continue to have grave concerns about the trajectory of this new filtering scheme.


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