Reporters Without Borders has opened a shelter in Paris that will be used by journalists, bloggers and dissidents as a place to learn how to circumvent censorship, protect their online communications and maintain their anonymity. From the press release:
“At a time when online filtering and surveillance is becoming more and more widespread, we are making an active commitment to an Internet that is unrestricted and accessible to all by providing the victims of censorship with the means of protecting their online information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Never before have there been so many netizens in prison in countries such as China, Vietnam and Iran for expressing their views freely online,” the press freedom organisation added. “Anonymity is becoming more and more important for those who handle sensitive data.”
Reporters Without Borders and the communications security firm XeroBank have formed a partnership in order to make high-speed anonymity services, including encrypted email and web access, available free of charge to those who user the Shelter. By connecting to XeroBank through a Virtual Private Network (VPN), their traffic is routed across its gigabit backbone network and passes from country to country mixed with tens of thousands of other users, creating a virtually untraceable high-speed anonymity network.
Mina Muradova -- an Azerbaijain-based freelance reporter -- wrote on Eurasianet.org that the Government of Azerbaijain plans to censor the Internet. On April 22, Nushiravan Maggeramli -- the head of Azerbaijan’s National TV and Radio Council (NTRC) -- called for stronger controls on online radio and television. Now, Ali Abbasov -- the Azerbaijani Minister of Communication and Information Technologies -- has echoed the comments, suggesting that such controls could stem the alleged "illegal activities” of Internet users in that country, though he could not provide specific evidence of such activities. Abbasov stated: "There is no doubt, electronic media should be under control. It is not permitted that everyone can say whatever comes into his mind, something against the state..." The controls are expected to come in the form of a licensing system for any online commercial service. Reporters Without Borders has called the licensing system “a shameless offensive against the Internet.” Muradova added:
GRANT PECK and THANYARAT DOKSONE at the Associated Press (AP) published the following story about the role of the Internet in the protests in Thailand and the associated government crackdown:
BANGKOK — George Orwell's "1984" had its Big Brother, and Thailand has Ranongrak Suwanchawee. The country's information minister stares down from billboards along Bangkok's expressways, warning that "Bad websites are detrimental to society" and should be reported to a special hot line.
The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is fighting a battle on at least two major fronts against protesters seeking its ouster. On the streets, a massive force of soldiers and police has only managed to battle them to a standstill. In cyberspace, the authorities have fared little better, despite efforts to block dissenting voices with the threat of lengthy prison terms.
Still, it is a struggle for uncensored information to get through, forcing both information providers and consumers to resort to various dodges to penetrate the government's firewall, sometimes using tactics perfected by dissidents in such authoritarian states as China and Iran.
The often broad-brush approach to blocking websites even affects surfers just out for some video fun: Live streaming services justin.tv, ustream.tv and livestream.tv have also been blocked, apparently because they host transmissions by the so-called Red Shirt protesters.
A letter was sent on April 23, 2010 by Jean-François Julliard, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders to Mr. Anatoliy Mohylyov, the Ukrainian Minister of Interior, to complain about human rights violations of journalists in that country. The letter reads as follows:
Reporters Without Borders would like to draw your attention to the erosion of the right to information in your country in recent months as a result of arrests and intimidation of journalists working for both traditional and online media.
This aim of this behaviour by police officers abusing their authority appears to have been to scare journalists and pressure them into censoring themselves. Reporters Without Borders is particularly concerned by the fact that the police are beginning to target online journalists.