Bloggers scare governments.
Take Turkmenistan. In 2007, it jumped headlong into the digital age with its first Internet cafes – and posted armed soldiers outside.
This list isn’t full of surprises. Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, China, Vietnam, and Tunisia. Most nations are governed by leaders afraid of democracy and the ideas their own people might be exposed to if they have too much contact with the world or each other.
Even before Nargis, this was a nation where only 1 percent of the population had private Internet access. Maybe that has something to do with the punitive cost: $1,300 for a broadband connection. The average Burmese household income is $40 a month, reports Soe Myint, the editor of Mizzima News, a news website in India run by Burmese.
Iran, which calls itself a democracy, is staying abreast of the times by creating a special prosecutor’s office for Internet crimes. New legislation will make it a crime to create a blog that’s determined to be promoting “corruption, prostitution, and apostasy.”
The new penalty? Death.
Do they need this law? Iranian blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi, jailed for insulting the country’s religious leaders, died in Evin Prison in March under circumstances that have not been fully explained, reports CPJ.
In Tunisia, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali warned against examining government “mistakes and violations.” That, he added, would be “an activity that is unbecoming of our society and is not an expression of freedom or democracy.”
It’s a relief to know that democracies don’t make mistakes.
For a more detailed look at international Internet access, usage, and restrictions, it’s worth checking out a special report released a month ago by Freedom House. The report covers 15 countries, including 5 of CPJ’s 10 Worst Blogger nations.
For a more global perspective, check out the Freedom House annual report of press freedom. The freedom map is pretty cool.
Out of the 195 countries and territories covered in the study, 70 (36 percent) are rated Free, 61 (31 percent) are rated Partly Free and 64 (33 percent) are rated Not Free. This represents a modest decline from the 2008 survey in which 72 countries and territories were Free, 59 Partly Free and 64 Not Free. The new survey found that only 17 percent of the world's population lives in countries that enjoy a Free press.
Israel was dinged for its restrictions on coverage of its Gaza offensive. Beijing is curbing Hong Kong’s media. And Italy saw its speech limited by courts, libel laws, intimidation by organized crime and right-wing extremists.