Feeds

It's official: Blogging is a dangerous business

Report suggests 2009 was worst ever year for bloggers

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

2009 was a bad year for freedom of speech across the world, with journalists and bloggers getting the worst of it.

According to a report (pdf) released last week by internationally respected organisation Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF), journalists bore the brunt of the crackdown – but there was also a sharp rise in action being taken against bloggers.

On the journalistic front, the raw figures speak for themselves: in 2009, 76 were killed (vs. 60 in 2008), 33 were kidnapped, 573 were arrested and 1456 physically assaulted. The most dangerous places to be a journalist were war zones and disputed elections.

At the end of the year, at least 167 journalists are known to be in prison around the world – a figure not equalled since the 1990s. Whilst the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression has repeatedly stated that imprisonment is a disproportionate punishment for press offences, laws that allow the jailing of journalists continue to be passed – and abused.

Lest we become too blasé about the UK: also last week, photojournalist Andrew Handley from Milton Keynes won over £5,000 in damages for being unlawfully held in a cell after trying to take photographs of a car accident while working for the MKNews.

Mr Handley was arrested, cuffed, cautioned and had his DNA taken – before spending 8 hours locked in Milton Keynes Central police station - for the "crime" of attempting to explain to a police officer that he was legally entitled to take photographs.

Meanwhile, the spotlight is increasingly falling on bloggers, as 2009 was the first year that more than 100 bloggers and cyber-dissidents were imprisoned.

In a number of countries online dissent is now a criminal offence: authorities have responded to the internet as pro-democracy tool with new laws and crackdowns. A pair of Azerbaijani bloggers were sentenced to two years in prison for making a film mocking the political elite.

China was still the leading Internet censor in 2009. However, Iran, Tunisia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan have all also made extensive use website blocking and online surveillance to monitor and control dissent. The Turkmen Internet remains under total state control. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer remains in jail, while well-known Burmese comedian Zarganar has a further 34 years of his prison sentence to serve.

However, the Report also notes that democratic countries have not lagged far behind, instancing the various steps taken by European countries to control the internet under the guise of protection against child porn and illegal downloading. It also notes that Australia intends to put in place a compulsory filtering system that poses a threat to freedom of expression.

Above and beyond this, regular readers will be aware of other straws in the wind. Throughout 2009, rumblings have continued in the Italian courts, following a ruling that blogs were officially "newspapers" – and therefore almost without exception, illegal. A senior EU politician declared that freedom of speech on the internet did not need to be protected – and toward the end of 2008 senior Labour politician Hazel Blears attacked bloggers in general for lowering the tone of political debate.

How bloggers are treated depends in large measure on the nature of the regime they attempt to blog under, but as RSF documents, the war against bloggers is hotting up everywhere – and there is little reason to expect a cooling off in 2010. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Megaupload overlord Kim Dotcom: The US HAS RADICALISED ME!
Now my lawyers have bailed 'cos I'm 'OFFICIALLY' BROKE
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
BT said to have pulled patent-infringing boxes from DSL network
Take your license demand and stick it in your ASSIA
Right to be forgotten should apply to Google.com too: EU
And hey - no need to tell the website you've de-listed. That'll make it easier ...
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.