With support from the French foreign ministry, the French Caisse des dépôts

et consignations and the Fondation Hachette.

Population figures: L’état du monde 2003,

© Editions La Découverte & Syros, 2002.

Internet figures: International Telecommunication Union.

Maps: L’atlas des drapeaux du monde, by Patrick Mérienne,

© Editions Ouest-France, 1998

Design: Nuit de Chine

ISBN: 2-90-8830-88-4

Copyright: Reporters Without Borders 2003



Truth is a powerful solvent. Stone walls melt before its

relentless might. The Internet is one of the most powerful

agents of freedom. It exposes truth to those who wish to see and

hear it. It is no wonder that some governments and organizations

fear the Internet and its ability to make the truth known.

The phrase “freedom of speech” is often used to characterize a

key element of democratic societies: open communication and

especially open government. But freedom of speech is less than

half of the equation. It is also vital that citizens have the freedom

to hear and see. It is the latter area in which many governments

have intervened in an attempt to prevent citizens from

gaining access to information that their governments wish to

withhold from them.

The Free Flow of Informations is

not Free



The equation is even more complex than simply speaking and

hearing or writing and reading. The Internet is much like a

piece of paper. The paper is unaware of what is written upon it.

The Internet is equally oblivious. It delivers information and

misinformation with equal facility. Thus it can become a tool for

the delivery of bad data.Worse, this effect may be propagated

less by design than by ignorance. It surprises me how often I

will find a strident warning in my email inbox forwarded to me

by some who should know better, proclaiming that the post

office is going to start charging for email or that Microsoft will

pay for the forwarding of each copy of the enclosed message.

These are all hoaxes but readers are too lazy or perhaps too

stupid to take the time to check before they forward.

The antidote for bad information is not censorship but more

and better information. Of course, this places a burden on the

consumer of information to pay attention and to think critically

about what is seen and heard. Surely this is what a responsible

citizen should be doing. And surely this is what we should be

teaching our children at home and at school.

Despite its great promise, the Internet is not, in and of itself, a

guarantor of the free flow of information. George Soros, the

well-known financier, takes pains to remind us that the freedom

offered by the Internet can be taken away. Indeed, what

you will read in the pages that follow illustrates exactly this

point. Many governments do want to limit the information its

citizens can reach. In some cases the motivations are understandable

and even laudable. I can see no redeeming value in

child pornography for example and I support efforts to expunge

it from the Internet. But those of us living in free societies have

been warned repeatedly that censorship is a slippery slope and

must be treated with the greatest care.


Even in the worst cases of content abuse, the slope beckons. For

example, attempts by governments to extend their jurisdiction

beyond their national borders poses a significant threat. More

than once, ISPs have been ordered by courts in country A to

eliminate content on servers in country B. This extra-territorial

gambit leads into a thorny legal thicket into which we should

not want to go.

To borrow a phrase from the venture capital world, free citizens

must exercise due diligence to assure that their governments

are not hiding political censorship behind a putative moral

facade. One is reminded of one government’s attempt to shut

down thousands of Internet cafes on the grounds that one of

them had fire law violations and therefore all the others might

also be hazardous. This struck me as disingenuous at best and

insulting to the intelligence of the citizenry at worst.

I see many responsibilities on the table for effective use of the

Internet. Citizens must do their best to guard against government

censorship for political purposes. At the same time, they

are responsible for trying to distinguish useful and truthful

information from bad quality information and must therefore

exercise critical thinking about what they see and hear.And that

responsibility extends to all media, not only the Internet.

Moreover, where disinformation or misinformation exists,

thoughtful citizens have a responsibility to draw attention to

the problem, possibly even to provide information to counteract

the bad data. Furthermore, citizens must bear in mind that not

all relevant information is online and that thoroughness dictates

examination of material from other sources than the

Internet before concluding that due diligence has been taken.

One can imagine a briar patch of legal problems for medical

caregivers should they rely solely on Internet-based informa-


tion in diagnosis and treatment of disease and injury. Nor

should patients imagine that they have limned the standard of

care with a casual web search or that they have uncovered a

miracle cure in a web site that trumpets its obscure and unsubstantiated


There are no electronic filters that separate truth from fiction.

No cognitive “V-chip” to sort the gold from the lead.We have but

one tool to apply: critical thinking. This truth applies as well to

all other communication media, not only the Internet. Perhaps

the World Wide Web merely forces us to see this more clearly

than other media. The stark juxtaposition of valuable and valueless

content sets one to thinking. Here is an opportunity to

educate us all.We truly must think about what we see and hear.

We must evaluate and select.We must choose our guides.

In this 21st century information age, Internauts have significant

responsibilities. They must guard against abusive censorship

and counteract misinformation. They must take responsibility

for thoughtful use of the Internet and the World Wide Web and

all of the information services and appliances yet to come. Free

flow of information has a price and responsible Internauts will

shoulder the burden of paying it.






POPULATION: 22,474,000



After 20 years of war, as well as fierce censorship by the Taliban, the

Internet hardly exists. The new government that took power in November

2001 says it favours freedom of expression and media diversity. Growth of

the Internet depends on the regime’s ability to rebuild the communications


The Islamic state set up by the Taliban after their seizure of Kabul in 1996 brutally

stamped out freedom of expression. The Internet was seen by these

“theology students” as a heretical and dangerous medium.The 20 years of war that

destroyed the country’s phone network is another reason the Internet hardly

exists. In 2000-2001, only leading Taliban and officials of government ministries

and international humanitarian organisations, along with a few leaders of the

opposition Northern Alliance, had access to it, via Pakistan or a satellite link.

The Internet was formally outlawed by the Taliban on 13 July 2001 to “prevent access

to all vulgar, immoral or anti-Islamic material,” as the foreign ministry put it. Six

weeks later, a new decree by Taliban leader Mullah Omar banned government and

non-government organisations, local and foreign, and all citizens from using it. The

religious police were ordered to mete out Islamic punishment to offenders. Only the

headquarters of the Taliban militia was allowed to use the Internet, to approve e-mail

sent by government ministries.

The regime’s collapse in November 2001 opened a new era. When he was sworn in

on 22 December, the interim president, Hamid Karzai, stressed that freedom of

expression and belief was the right of all Afghans and the government’s job was to

defend it. The road to widespread Internet access will be hard however.

There are no laws about the Internet, but the problem is logging on.The phone network

is too dilapidated to be used for Internet connection, so no ISPs can operate in

the country. Satellite phones are the only way to get online and are freely used by

government officials, foreign journalists, NGOs and the army. But very few ordinary

people can afford to use this very expensive means of communication.


The communications ministry and the UN Development Programme inaugurated

the domain name “af” for Afghan Internet users in March 2003. “This is our flag on

the Internet,” said the minister. There is so far no regulation of the Internet, but the

ministry, helped by international organisations, is drawing up a telecommunications


The first cybercafé was opened in Kabul in August 2002 by the Afghan Wireless

Communication company. Soon afterwards, the media aid NGO Aïna opened an

Internet centre for Afghan journalists. In March 2003, there were about five cybercafés

in Kabul.

The Internet is a vital source of information however for the tens of thousands of

Afghans who live in the United States, Canada,Australia,France and Germany.At the

end of 2001, they decided to use the Internet to help rebuild the country and unite

the scattered diaspora. Exiles working in California’s Silicon Valley created a site

called Virtual Nation, linking Afghans around the world and aid organisations

seeking to help the country.



Afghan Reconstruction Development Center


The Afghanistan news agency


The ministry of communications




POPULATION: 30,841,000



Unlike in neighbouring Tunisia, the Internet in Algeria is not controlled

by the authorities. Laws give the government power to regulate and even

monitor it, but they have not so far been used.

The daily paper Liberté reported in 2001 that a policeman in Boufarik, a small

town west of Algiers, tried to get the owner of a cybercafé to note down the

names and addresses of customers and the websites they connected to.The owner

refused and filed a complaint. After this was reported by the media, the local

police chief said it was a personal initiative of the police officer and that he had

been suspended.

Since then, no cases of censorship have been recorded. However, article 14 of a 1998

telecommunications decree says ISPs “must take responsibility” for the content of

sites and servers they run or host.They are also required to “take all necessary steps

to ensure continuous monitoring” of content and servers accessible to their customers

so as to block access to “material that undermines public order and morale.”

In May 2001, parliament passed an amendment to the criminal code that caused

outcry among journalists. Its article 144 (b) provided for prison terms of between two

months and a year and fines of between 750 euros and 3750 euros in the event of

“denigration of the president through insults or defamation,” in writing, drawings or

speech, through radio and TV broadcasts or electronic or computer means.

Offenders can be directly prosecuted by the government without a prior complaint

being filed. For repeat offenders, the punishments are doubled.These sanctions also

apply to such attacks on parliament, the armed forces and any other public body.

Several journalists have been given prison sentences, but the measure has not so far

hampered the growth of the Internet.


• News site of Algeria Interface

• human rights group Algeria Watch

• Human rights in North Africa



POPULATION: 19,338,000



The Broadcasting Services Act, which came into force on 1 January 2000, spells

out material to be banned from websites, including pornography involving

children, bestiality, excessive violence, real sex acts and information about crime,

violence and drug use. The arbiter of this is the regulatory Australian

Broadcasting Authority (ABA), which asks the ISPs of sites concerned to take reasonable

steps to bar access to them.

Civil liberty groups oppose these restrictions, as well as the obligation of ISPs to offer

content filters to their customers. Most ISPs are refusing to comply and simply list

sites that provide such products.

In October 2001, the Cybercrime Act came into effect, allowing judges to force suspects

to reveal their encryption codes. A few months later, the federal senate,

rejected an amendment to the telecommunications law that would have allowed

the security services to intercept e-mail without court permission.

Eight major international media – including Yahoo!, CNN, Reuters and The

Guardian – said on 28 May 2002 they would give legal support to an appeal by the

Dow Jones US media group to the High Court against a libel conviction.The plaintiff

was Australian businessman Joseph Gutnick, who said he had been libelled in

an article on the website of the group’s Barrons magazine. The Victoria state

supreme court, saying the article could be read in the state, convicted Dow Jones,

whose lawyer warned that the ruling was a serious precedent that would threaten

the online media worldwide.

In November 2002, the ABA refused to censor three anti-globalisation sites that

called on demonstrators against a World Trade Organisation meeting in Sydney

that month to equip themselves with baseball bats and gas-masks. The authorities,

especially the police, had asked for the censorship on grounds it was clear

incitement to physically attack the police.

The government responded to the ABA’s refusal by moving to set up a centre to

combat high tech crime. The daily newspaper The Courier-Mail said it would give

the federal government power to censor websites directly.





Electronic Frontier Australia, on Internet censorship


The Australian Broadcasting Authority


Zdnet on new technology



POPULATION: 8,096,000



The high cost of computers and ISP subscriptions, as well as poor-quality

phone lines and equipment, hamper growth of the Internet, though the cost

of connection is getting cheaper (now less than $1 an hour). More and more Azeris

are using cybercafés in big towns but connection is still difficult in country areas.

A dozen state and privately-owned ISPs are in operation, but the communications

ministry takes a 51 per cent stake in all private ones, hands out operating licences to

them and keeps control of transmission lines. The Internet is also overseen by the

national security ministry, which monitors message activity by regime opponents,

intellectuals and foreign businessmen. The state unofficially justifies this by a need

to combat Armenian hackers, who have been targeting official Azeri sites for the past

few years.

Access to the Russian-based news site Virtualnyi Monitor was temporarily blocked in

March 2002 after it carried articles criticising the government.

In July that year, the Azerbaijan Internet Forum launched an online protest against

government censorship which hampers the growth of the Internet in the country.



The Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


The news site Eurasianet


The independent news agency Turan








On World Press Freedom Day (3 May) in 2003, the Association for Islamic

National Reconciliation, the country’s main opposition group (representing

Shiites), denounced the government for blocking access to several pro-opposition

websites. On 3 May a year earlier, Association supporters demonstrated outside

the offices of the country’s lone ISP, the Bahrain Telecommunications Company

(Batelco), against the blocking and in favour of free expression. Batelco also

monitors e-mail messages.

The information ministry said the sites had been censored because they had become

platforms for spreading biased news, rumours and lies.The minister, Nabil el-Hamer,

said in March 2002 that the ban would be lifted when the sites removed the offending


Among the sites blocked were the London-based Bahrain Freedom Movement’s, as well as, the online newspaper Al-Manama

( and a site run by Islamic fundamentalist Abdel Wahab




Bahrain Telecommunications Company


News about countries of the Gulf (in Arabic).


Bahrain Tribune (English-language daily)



POPULATION: 140,369,000



A dozen English- and Bengali-language newspapers are available online,

but there are very few ISPs and Internet users for such a populous country.

Police have stepped up their surveillance of the e-mail of some journalists

and political .

Afew hours after the 27 February 2001 launch of the human rights portal, the phone and fax links of DRIK, the NGO hosting the

site, were cut off. The Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board regulatory

authority denied it was to do with DRIK’s activities and said it was part of a

government enquiry following complaints about ISPs.

DRIK also hosts, the site of an anti-globalisation group very critical

of the government.At the time of’s launch, Meghbarta had posted

articles about the local human rights situation and attacks on human rights activists

which reportedly annoyed some politicians.

In November 2001, the government also cut off the phone lines of about 60 firms

offering Internet services. The telecommunications minister said this was because

the companies could not get their professional licences renewed. But the companies

said it was done to stop people using the Internet to make cheap phone calls abroad

instead of going through the state-owned phone company. This practice, common in

Bangladesh and permitted in most countries, is not allowed by the government.

The police have stepped up their monitoring of e-mail of journalists and political

activists. In early 2002, the Islamist newspaper Inqilab published private e-mail

messages of journalist Shahriar Kabir that had clearly been intercepted by the security

services.The pro-government daily was at the time attacking Kabir as a traitor in

the pay of India. During a crackdown by the right-wing government at the end of

2002, police seized the computers of several journalists, including Saleem Samad, the

Reporters Without Borders correspondent. A climate of fear developed and several

reporters and human rights activists told Reporters Without Borders they no longer

used e-mail addresses supplied by national ISPs because messages might be

monitored by the police.







The daily News from Bangladesh



POPULATION: 10,147,000



Although President Alexander Lukashenko is keen to encourage digital technology,

his regime closely monitors the Internet. Local users suspect this is

done through the obligatory “certification” of all modems by the communications

ministry, which takes at least a week to “verify” them.

The state has a telecommunications monopoly through Beltelekom. Smaller privately-

owned ISPs have sprung up, such as Global One (a subsidiary of the American

firm Sprint) and Open Contact, but their traffic is handled by Beltelekom’s Internet

division, Belpak. Operating licences are only issued in exchange for signing up with

Beltelekom, agreeing to surprise “technical inspections”by communications ministry

officials and providing an annual list of subscribers. ISPs must also promise not to

exchange traffic with each other. Independent websites are not censored, perhaps

because Internet users are still few.

Parliament rejected a proposed “data security” law on 22 May 2002 which had been

condemned by the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) as tightening government

control over the content and flow of information.

On 5 November 2002, police interrogated Iulia Doroshevich and Andrei Pachobut,

two journalists on the daily paper Pagonya, which was banned in 2001, about the

online version of the paper, which was still appearing. Pagonya’s editor and one of its

journalists were imprisoned at hard labour from September 2002 to March 2003 for

“insulting” President Alexander Lukashenko in an article.



Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ)


Survey of laws concerning freedom of expression, done by the organisation Article 19





POPULATION: 10,264,000



Almost a third of the population uses the Internet, up from only half a million

people in 1998. Ninety per cent are men between 24 and 45, two-thirds of

them with a university degree or the equivalent.

This rapid growth is partly because Brussels, the capital of Europe and site of the

European Union’s major institutions, was a pioneer of introducing new technology.

The growth of the Internet is also fed by the many commercial incentives offered by

fiercely competing local ISPs.

Belgium is keen on free expression and human rights, but it was one of the first

European countries to pass a law on retention of Internet connection data. In 2001,

even before the 11 September attacks, such retention had been extended to a year.

The concern to have and use this information is probably because the country has

been traumatised in recent years by several paedophilia scandals and the exploitation

of children through the Internet.



Electronique Libre association


Internet Rights Observatory



POPULATION: 48,364,000



Burma is one of the countries most shut off from the Internet. Its people

have to make do with a local substitute, the Myanmar Wide Web, created

by the military regime. The few thousand authorised e-mail accounts are

monitored by the authorities. The government slightly eased restrictions in

2002 by allowing a second ISP to start up and a cybercafé to open in


The Internet situation has become a little easier since 2000, but only a few

hundred hand-picked people – regime officials, top army figures and heads of

export companies – are allowed full access to the Internet, though still closely

monitored. Nearly 10,000 people are limited to e-mail activity but only for professional

purposes and again strictly under the eye of the posts and telecommunications

authority MPT and military intelligence officials, who reportedly use a Dans

Guardian content filter.

A national intranet controlled by the army

Fewer than 10,000 people are allowed to use the substitute Internet, the local

Myanmar Wide Web intranet set up by the regime, but only a few dozen mainly

service or administrative sites, all government-approved, are accessible. Even that is

hard to log on to, since until very recently, only one cybercafé, at the university, had

free access to Myanmar Wide Web.

Only big hotels, travel agencies and foreign and local businesspeople can use e-mail,

which arrives through a local server and is sorted and read by the MPT before being

passed on to its destination. The MPT is thought to have signed up more than 5,000

people for e-mail accounts.

Prison awaits those do not comply

A 1996 law bans the import, possession or use of a fax machine or modem without

official permission. Those who disobey risk up to 15 years in jail, as does anybody

who uses the Internet to “undermine the state, law and order, national unity, national



culture or the economy.”Anyone who creates a link to an unauthorised website also

faces a prison sentence. Since 20 January 2000, online political material has been

banned and websites can only be set up with official permission. The rules ban any

online material considered by the regime to be harmful to the country’s interests and

any message that directly or indirectly jeopardises government policies or state security


The measures to prevent people being freely informed and stop them looking at

exiled opposition websites, which are very active, with the Free Burma Coalition site,

for example, grouping several opposition movements.

Small steps forward

“Some people in the regime think the Internet is vital for economic development, but

they also know the big danger of allowing access to diversity of news and culture,”

says one Burmese journalist.“So the debate is a heated and tricky one among them.”

Things are therefore moving forward very slowly.

The MPT’s monopoly as the country’s sole ISP was broken in spring 2002 when a

second ISP, Bagan Cybertech, was authorised. But the break was a false one and the

regime has little to fear since the new ISP is partly state-owned and its boss, Ye

Naung Win, is the son of the country’s powerful military intelligence chief, Lt. Gen.

Khin Nyunt.

The new firm says the regime has approved creation of 10,000 new e-mail accounts

and given permission for several thousand more people to have Internet access. It

has reportedly already sold more than 3,000 subscriptions and says the national

intranet should grow to several hundred sites quite soon.

The Thai-based monthly magazine Irrawaddy reports that all requests to open cybercafés

have to pass through Bagan Cybertech.With the regime’s permission, a private

individual can buy Internet access for 260 euros. Companies have to pay 600 euros.

The Burmese business magazine Living Color announced in September 2002 that

Rangoon’s first cybercafé for the general public would soon open. But customers will

not be able to get their e-mail there.They can do so in the very few “e-mail shops” in

the capital, though this is illegal and barely tolerated by the regime.

Will the media benefit from this small opening? Most Burmese weekly and monthly

publications put their contents on line in the course of 2001. But the independent

press and opposition groups still have to set up and run their websites from outside

the country.


• Exiled opposition magazine The Irrawaddy

• Official government site

• Freedom of expression in Burma

• Burmanet News

• :A report on the Internet’s impact in




POPULATION: 6,502,000



Several journalists from the online news agency were beaten up

by police in Bujumbura in early January 2002 while investigating the torture

by state intelligence service agents of a watchman arrested in the previous

month’s murder of Kassi Malan, the World Health Organisation’s representative in

Burundi. The police warned the journalists they “could come to the same end.”

The National Communications Council banned Burundian media websites on 26

August 2002 from posting material emanating from political groups “preaching

hatred and violence.”This was chiefly aimed at the Rugamba website of the Net Press

news agency, which carried statements by opposition groups.The Council threatened

to shut down Net Press if Rugamba did not stop posting material that “undermines

public order and security.”



Online news agency


Rugamba (Net Press news agency)





POPULATION: 31,153,000

INTERNET USERS: 15,200,000


After the 11 September attacks, parliament passed an anti-terrorist law on

18 December 2001 that undermined the principle of protecting journalistic


The law amended the Criminal Code, the National Defence Act, the Official

Secrets Act and the law about individual freedoms. Changes to the Criminal

Code extended electronic surveillance of criminal organisations to cover terrorist

groups and police will no longer have to show that such monitoring is a last resort.

The decision remains one for a Supreme Court judge to make but the maximum

authorised period of it was increased from 60 days to a year.

A change in the National Defence Act allows the defence minister to authorise the

Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to intercept private communications

(including electronic ones) linked to activity defined by the defence minister (chapter

273.65.1).The confidentiality of e-mail communication, and with it the protection

of journalistic sources, has clearly been destroyed. The CSE’s rules, however, say it

cannot monitor Canadians or people living in Canada.

The government began consultations on 25 August 2002 about adapting to new technology

various laws allowing legal access by prosecutors to private documents in the

interest of the security and welfare of Canadians. It proposed that all ISPs be obliged

to ensure they had the technical means to provide legal access to their data by

national security officials. In effect, they would have to retain and provide data about

their customers.

The government noted that the Criminal Code banned deliberate interception of

private communications. But, in an attempt to justify possible interception of e-mail

messages, it argued that when a message was written down, it was no longer really

private, since it could easily fall into the hands of someone else.

These views were fiercely attacked by Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski in a

report in late January 2003. He accused the government of using the 11 September

attacks as an excuse to collect and use more and more data about private individuals.


Such measures had no place in a free and democratic society and showed the government’s

contempt for privacy, he said



Electronic Frontier Canada


Ligue des droits et libertés (in French)


Privacy Commissioner of Canada


Communications Security Establishment


Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission



The C-36 anti-terrorist law


About legal access




POPULATION: 1,284,972,000

INTERNET USERS: 59,100,000



The number of Internet users doubles nearly every six months and the

number of websites every year. But this dizzying growth is matched by the

authorities’ energetic attempts to monitor, censor and repress Internet

activity, with tough laws, jailing cyber-dissidents, blocking access to websites,

monitoring online forums and shutting down cybercafés.

The tremendous growth of the Internet now makes it technically impossible for

the authorities to monitor the content of all the millions of e-mail messages

being exchanged around the country. But the regime is still banning users from

looking at websites it considers endanger “the social order and the socialist

system.” The authorities have created a legal arsenal to punish cybercrime and


The official news agency Xinhua announced in January 2001 that anyone involved in

“espionage activities” such as “stealing, uncovering, purchasing or disclosing state

secrets” using the web or other means risked the death penalty, or between 10 years

to life in prison.The same month, the public security ministry set up a website giving

information about currently laws and warning Internet users of the risks they would

run if they circulated “subversive” information. This concerned both the 12 million

Chinese who have a private Internet connection and those who use cybercafés.

The information and technology ministry introduced new rules on 14 January 2002

about monitoring the Internet. ISPs involved in “strategic and sensitive fields” such

as news sites and forums would have to record details of their customers, such as

their Internet ID, postal address and phone number. They were also required to

install software to monitor and copy the content of “sensitive” e-mail messages. The

ISPs are obliged to break off transmission of e-mails containing obscene or subversive

material, advocating terrorism or threatening national security or national unity.

The authors of such messages are to be reported to the ministries of information and

technology and of public security and to the department for protection of state

secrets. The ISPs must also use official equipment that cannot be used for spying or


hacking, and foreign firms selling software to China must promise in writing not to

install spying devices on Chinese computers.

ISPs and news site webmasters must themselves censor content that contravenes

these rules and ferret out subversive comments or messages on major websites.

Discussion forums are popular places to talk politics and criticise the government. If

the ISPs do not censor the sites themselves, the authorities will.Access to the searchengine

Google was blocked for 12 days in August 2002. The move drew sharp criticism

from experts and from Chinese and foreign investors, who do not usually say

much about the authorities’ attitude to the Internet.

The government enacted a law on 15 November 2002 on the running of cybercafés,

making owners responsible for the websites looked at by customers, on pain of being

shut down or fined.

This dictatorial trend led to 18 Chinese intellectuals signing a “declaration of rights

of Chinese Internet users” in July 2002, calling for freedom of expression (creating

websites), freedom of online information (access to all websites) and freedom of

association (opening cybercafés). One of the petition’s organisers said that if major

websites yielded to the Chinese government’s pressure, it would “greatly reduce the

power to resist” of NGOs that had found the Internet a place where they could

express themselves. This founding document of Internet freedom in China was

signed by thousands of the country’s Internet users.

Faced with the spiralling growth of the Internet, the government abandoned its

“Great Cyber Wall” strategy and began developing the top secret “Golden Shield”

project put forward by the ministries of public security and information industry.

Nearly 3,000 people were recruited to defend the government from Internet subversion.

In April 2002, public security minister Jia Chunwang called a meeting in Beijing to

discuss the protection and security of government information.Ways of combating

Internet offences, especially those considered subversive, were considered and the

minister reportedly said Internet monitoring equipment had become “vital tools for

national security, political stability and national sovereignty.”

The authorities were disturbed at critical articles posted online by the Falungong

spiritual movement and the Chinese Democratic Party and decided to step up

recruitment of experts to combat “foreign forces” trying to “subvert China via the


At the end of December, the public security department in the southern province of

Guangdong organised a conference on Internet development and security to assess

the Internet’s influence on “stability and public order,” according to the provincial

police chief.


Luan Guangsheng, head of the province’s Internet police, told the Hong Kong daily

South China Morning Post that the Internet had to be “very tightly controlled” and

that users had to “take responsibility if they passed on dangerous material.” He

refused to say how many cyberpolice the province had but said the number was


Crackdown on cyber-dissidents

The tough and repressive laws are not just aimed at cyber-dissidents but also at

anyone using the Internet as a means of expression, freely obtaining information or

criticising the government or the ruling Communist Party. At least 21 cyber-dissidents

are in prison in China, 16 of them serving prison sentences.

In spring 2001, a shopkeeper, Liu Weifang,was jailed for three years by a court in the

northwestern province of Xinjiang for alleged subversion for posting very critical

articles about the Communist Party and the government’s economic reforms

on Internet forums in 2000 and 2001. Despite using a pseudonym, “Lgwf”, police

managed to identify him.

Lu Xinhua, a member of the banned Chinese Democratic Party (most of whose

leaders are in jail),was picked up on 11 March 2001 in Wuhan and formally arrested

for subversion on 20 April, according to the Information Centre for Human Rights

and Democracy.When he was picked up, police ransacked his home and seized his

computer. He had written and posted on foreign websites many articles about human

rights violations in Wuhan and criticising Chinese President Jiang Zemin. In

December, he was jailed for four years by the Wuhan intermediate court after a secret


Yang Zili, founder of the website,was arrested in Beijing on 13 March as

he left his home. His wife was arrested the same day and freed 48 hours later after

being forced to promise in writing not to reveal what had happened.Yang, a graduate

of Beijing University,wrote a number of theoretical articles posted on his website

advocating political liberalism, criticising repression of the Falungong spiritual

movement and deploring the problems faced by the peasantry. In a poem, he called

for “a fatal blow” to be struck against “the ghost of communism.”

Police refused to say where he was being held or why. Also on 13 March, three other

people helping to run the website – Jin Haike, a geologist, Xu Wei, a journalist with

the newspaper Consumers’ Daily, and Zhang Honghai, a freelance journalist – were

arrested in Beijing.

Together with Yang, they appeared on 28 September before the Beijing intermediate

court. Only three members of the public were allowed to attend. Three of the four

accused had lawyers and Zhang chose to defend himself. Jin Haike’s lawyer, Liu

Dongbin, said the prosecution witnesses were unreliable since they had already been

used several times in similar cases.


Yang said the charges “in no way imply any plan to subvert the government.When

we speak of freedom and liberalisation, we believe this will come about through

reforms. Is it not evident that the last 20 years of reform and conciliatory policies

have led China towards liberalisation?” he asked.

The four cyber-dissidents denied they were setting up branches of their group

throughout the country by posting articles on the Internet and setting up websites.

Zhang said nothing in the public prosecutor’s address proved they were planning to

overthrow the government.“We didn’t even have the 300 yuan we needed to launch

the website. How can all this be seen as undermining the state’s authority?”

The prosecutor then charged that the articles published on the Internet, including

“Be a New Citizen, Reform China,” and “What Needs to Be Done,” were subversive

because they accused the government of “practising a false form of democracy,”advocated

“an end to an obsolete system” and expressed a desire to create “a new China.”

After a four-hour hearing, the court rose without giving a verdict.

Chi Shouzhu, a worker and former political prisoner, was arrested at the railway

station in the northeastern town of Changchun on 17 April. He had just printed out

at a friend’s home material from a foreign-based opposition website. Chi, 41, had

already spent 10 years in prison for his involvement in the 1989 Beijing Spring

unrest.A native of the northeastern province of Jilin, he had gone to Changchun for

treatment of illnesses he had developed in prison.

Leng Wanbao, a dissident also from Jilin, was interrogated for two hours on 18 April

by police who accused him of posting “subversive material” on the Internet.

Wang Sen, a member of the Chinese Democratic Party, was arrested on 30 April in

Dazhou, in the southwestern province of Sichuan. In an article posted on the

Internet, he allegedly accused a state clinic of selling anti-TB medicine donated

by the Red Cross. On 30 May 2002, he was jailed for 10 years by the people’s intermediate

court in Dazhou for “trying to overthrow the government.” The court also

said he had organised a workers’ protest at a iron and steel factory in the city.

CDP member Wang Jinbo, was arrested on 9 May 2001 in Junan, in the eastern

province of Shandong.Police reportedly told his father that he was being held for two

weeks because he had insulted the local police on the Internet.Wang, who had

already been arrested several times for political activities,was tried in November for

“subversion” and jailed for four years on 13 December by the Linyi intermediate

court for e-mailing articles criticising the government’s attitude towards the 1989

pro-democracy movement. He began a hunger-strike on 28 February 2003 to mark

the opening of the People’s National Assembly in Beijing and to protest against his

imprisonment, former political prisoner Ren Wanding told foreign journalists

in Beijing. He began eating again a week later. His family said his health had deteriorated

in 2003.


Businessman and webmaster Hu Dalin was arrested on 18 May in the southwestern

town of Shaoyang for posting on the Internet anti-American articles written by his

father. He was not been charged and police told his family he had been picked up for

“subversive activity” on the Internet. His parents and girlfriend were not allowed to

visit him in the first months of his detention.

At about the same time, Guo Qinghai, a bank clerk,was jailed for four years by a court

in Cangzhou, south of Beijing, for alleged subversion. His family was not told of the

trial beforehand. He is believed to be in prison in Cangxian, near Cangzhou. He had

been arrested in September 2000 for putting material on foreign websites advocating

political reform and calling for the release of cyber-dissident Qi Yanchen. He used a

pseudonym but police managed to identify him.

In June, Li Hongmin was arrested in the southern city of Canton for disclosing by email

the 2001 Chinese version of the Tienanmen Papers, which accuses top Chinese

officials of being behind the June 1989 Tienanmen Square massacre. The US-based

dissident website VIP Reference said he was freed a few weeks later but had been

sacked from his job at the insistence of the authorities.

At the end of June, the authorities announced that the trial of Huang Qi, founder of the

website, who had been arrested in June 2000 for putting supposedly

subversive material on the site, had again been postponed indefinitely by the intermediate

court in the southwestern city of Chengdu because of the Communist Party’s

80th birthday celebrations.Many people said it was really to avoid bad publicity on the

eve of the decision about where the 2008 Olympics Games would be held.

The trial had earlier been postponed on 13 February 2001 because of Huang Qi’s

poor health. His wife said he had been beaten in prison and had a scar on his forehead

and had lost a tooth. She was not allowed to visit him and his lawyer Fang Jung

was only permitted to see him once in the course of seven months.

In mid-August, his lawyer announced that the trial had taken place in great secrecy

and had lasted only two hours and verdict had not been disclosed. No family members

were allowed to attend. Huang’s wife managed to take a photo of him as he

arrived at the court but police seized her camera. The trial is the first of the creator

of a website for having posted “subversive” material.

On 11 July, the day after the 2008 Olympics Games were awarded to Beijing, Yan

Peng, a computer salesman and dissident, was arrested in the southern province of

Guangxi and his computer seized. The Information Centre for Human Rights and

Democracy said Yan, one of the first people to use the Internet to oppose the Chinese

Communist Party, was returning from a trip to Vietnam and was accused of violating

immigration laws. On 16 July, three dissidents from Qingdao, including Mu

Chuanheng, tried to get him released, but police refused to see them.Yan had been

jailed several times since 1989. In September 2002, he was jailed for 18 months by a

court in Qingdao.


In mid-August 2001, Mu Chuanheng, a lawyer who has been banned from practising

for the past 15 years, was arrested in the eastern city of Qingdao for publicly calling

for the release of Yan Peng.A dozen police raided his home and seized his computer

and articles he had written.Mu was active in the 1979 Beijing Spring and contributed

often to the cultural website, which was banned in August 2000 by

the state security ministry. Mu was jailed for three years by a Qingdao court in

September 2002.

In September 2001, Zhu Ruixiang, a lawyer, co-founder and formed chief editor of

Radio Shaoyang,was found guilty of subversion by a court in Shaoyang, in the southeastern

province of Hunan, for sending to a dozen friends copies of articles from the

pro-democracy website VIP Reference ( criticising the government.

He was at first sentenced to nine months in prison but the authorities called for a

harsher punishment and he was eventually jailed for three years. When he was

arrested on 8 May, all his belongings, including his computer, were seized.

On 27 April 2002,Yang Jianli, chief editor of the US-based dissident online magazine

Yibao (, was detained at the airport in Kunming, in the

southern province of Yunnan, and then formally arrested on 2 June.He was returning

to China for the first time since his expulsion in 1989, with a passport borrowed from

a friend because the Chinese authorities had refused to renew his own. He had been

on the authorities’ black list for several years and was returning clandestinely to

investigate workers strikes in the northeast of the country. He is reportedly being

held in prison in Beijing.His brother Yang Jianjun went to Beijing in June but police

refused to tell him anything about his detention. Married with two children, he lives

in Brooklyn, Massachusetts.

Former policeman Li Dawei was jailed for 11 years on 24 June by a court in the northwestern

province of Gansu. The Information Centre for Human Rights and

Democracy said he was convicted of subversion for downloading more than 500 articles

from foreign-based Chinese pro-democracy websites which he then published

in the form of books. He was also accused of being in contact with foreign-based

“reactionary” groups. He was arrested in April and his trial began in May. His lawyer,

Dou Peixin, said the provincial supreme court had agreed to hear his appeal.

In August, journalist Chen Shaowen was picked up in Lianyuan, in Hunan province,

and formally arrested in September for what an official said was posting “many reactionary

articles”on the Internet. Chen has written regularly for several foreign-based

Chinese-language websites about social inequality, unemployment and pitfalls in the

legal system.

Wan Yanhai, founder of the Aizhi Action Project and the website,

which has fought since 1994 against discrimination against HIV/AIDS sufferers and

for Internet freedoms, disappeared in Beijing on 24 August while attending a film

about homosexuality. Some people at the occasion said he had been followed by

public security ministry officials.


The Project helped expose a blood transfusion scandal in the central province of

Henan by publishing on its website the names of the peasants who had died of AIDS

after selling their blood. The site, which is still accessible, also contains moving

descriptions of the plight of HIV-positive people in China. In July, the university that

hosted the Project closed the offices of the group, which was then outlawed.

On 17 July,Wan signed a “declaration of rights of Chinese Internet users” calling for

online freedom of expression. In early August, after a law banning information about

AIDS came into force, he repeated his desire to continue his AIDS campaign on the

Internet.With few exceptions,AIDS is a taboo subject in China, especially in Henan

province. Dozens of Chinese and foreign journalists have been prevented from

investigating the country’s epidemic.

In early November, Li Yibin, a computer science graduate, was arrested in Beijing.

Human Right Watch in China said he had been picked up for involvement in the

online magazine Democracy and Freedom, using the pseudonyms “Springtime” and

“Spring Snow.”

On 7 November, on the eve of the opening of the 16th Communist Party congress,

cyber-dissident Liu Di, a 22-year-old psychology student,was arrested on the Beijing

University campus. Her family only learned she had been picked up when police

arrived at their apartment and searched through her possessions, taking away her

books, notes and computer. Her parents took a change of clothes to the police station

but were told they could not see her.

The dissident organisation China Labor Watch said police told one of her teachers

she had been arrested because of her links with an “illegal organisation.” However

her father said it was probably because of her postings on the Internet. Under the

pseudonym of The Stainless Steel Mouse, she had urged Internet users to “ignore

government propaganda” and “live in freedom.” She also criticised the arrest of

imprisoned website founder Huang Qi.

Teacher Ouyang Yi, who runs a website and is a member of the banned Chinese

Democratic Party,was arrested on 4 December in Chengdu, capital of the southwestern

province of Sichuan, according to China Labor Watch. It said Ouyang’s wife had

learned of his arrest when local police came to search the family home in Suining,

nearly 200 kms from Chengdu, on orders from the provincial capital’s police.

Ouyang is well-known to the authorities as one of the 192 signatories of an open

letter in November to the 16th Communist Party congress calling on it to reverse its

condemnation of the 1989 Tienanmen Square demonstrations in Beijing. In his website

articles, he wrote about the 1989 dissidence (known as the second Beijing

Spring), the failure of the government’s economic policies and the need for reforms

in the state structure. He was arrested in 1996, 1998, 1999 and earlier this year for his

dissident activities, but had not been held longer than 48 hours.


Cyber-dissident Liao Yiwu was arrested on 18 December at his home in Chengdu, but

released a few hours later after the house had been searched. The writer and poet

began putting his writings on the Internet after they were banned from normal publication

by the authorities. He has been regularly harassed by the authorities for this.

In early March 2003, Qi Yanchen, was said to be in bad health in prison no. 4 in

Shijiazhuang (in Hebei province, south of Beijing). He has several serious ailments,

including colitis, and has only been getting medicine through his wife, Mi Hongwu,

who is only allowed to visit him every two months. She said he was “very weak” last

time she saw him in mid-January. He has been in jail since 1999 and was sentenced

in September 2000 to four years in prison after putting online long extracts from his

book “The Collapse of China,” which the prosecutor at his trial said was “subversive.”

Zhang Yuxiang was arrested at his home in Nanjing (in the eastern province of

Jiangsu) on 12 March and interrogated at length about articles he had posted on the

Internet. The police tried to make him confess having contacts with other cyber-dissidents.

Human Rights in China said he had been put under house arrest in a public

building in the Siyang district, but this could not be confirmed. His wife has not had

news of him since he was arrested or received any official document about his detention.

Zhang, a former armed forces propaganda department official in Nanjing, had

already spent two years in prison for helping the dissident Chinese Democratic

Federation. After he was freed, he had continued regularly posting political articles

online and signing petitions.

A Public Security Bureau official in Beijing confirmed on 25 March the arrest and

indictment of cyber-dissident Jiang Lijun, who had disappeared without trace since

6 November 2002. Police had secretly held him at Qincheng prison, near Beijing,

where the most important political prisoners are reportedly held. He was said to have

been charged on 14 December 2002 with inciting people to overthrow the government,

but police did not provide his wife,Yan Lina, with any document. Jiang is considered

by the police to be head of a small group of cyber-dissidents. His wife hired

a Beijing lawyer,Mo Shaoping, who has already defended several dissidents in court.

Blocking access to “subversive”websites

Apart from arrests and heavy jail terms for cyber-dissidents, the authorities also

block access to websites they consider “dangerous” or “subversive.”This includes not

just the rare sites that try, from inside the country, to push progressive ideas, but

foreign news sites as well.With the help of Western firms, including Cisco, Nortel and

Sun, the government has obtained state-of-the-art technology to block Internet

access. Internet firms established in China have applied the government’s censorship

orders without argument. Yahoo, for example, signed an agreement in 2002 to

eliminate “subversive” material.

A survey done by Harvard University’s Berkam Centre between May and November

2002, showed that more than 50,000 out of 204,000 websites normally accessible


through the Google and Yahoo search-engines were blocked at least once from at

least one point inside China. Apart from explicitly pornographic sites, the most

censored (when searched for on Google) included those dealing with Tibet (60 per

cent censored),Taiwan (47 per cent) and democracy.

Websites about democracy and human rights, such as Amnesty International,Human

Rights Watch and Hong Kong Voice of Democracy, are especially targeted by the

censors. Education sites are also strictly monitored, particularly US ones such as

Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), because

they host sites run by pro-democracy groups. Sites about religion or health in China

are also blocked.

The websites of 923 media, including the BBC,CNN and Time magazine, are regularly

blocked, along with the sites of governments, such as Taiwan.

In late March 2001, Internet users in the Shanghai region were banned from putting

radio or TV programmes on the Internet without government permission. A month

earlier, the public security ministry announced introduction of new software called

“Internet Police 110” designed to block sites containing religion, sex or violence. In

early May 2001, the state-owned Xinjiang Telecommunications said Internet portals

that were not officially registered would be automatically shut down.

The online magazine Hot Topic was suspended on 18 June after four years, during

which it had posted anti-government articles for its 235,000 subscribers.

The Australian foreign ministry (, which had been inaccessible from

China for more than a year,was unblocked briefly in June during the visit to China of

the communications minister Richard Alston. A Chinese government spokesman

denied any censorship and said the site had been inaccessible for technical reasons.

However, material on the site about human rights and risks of conflict in some parts

of China was seen as the true reason for the blocking. In July, the site was again

accessible, after the Australian foreign minister protested to the Chinese chargé d’affaires

in Canberra.

For several weeks in July, the pages in Mandarin of the Radio France International

(RFI) website were inaccessible and RFI asked the Chinese government for an explanation.

In August two websites close to the Chinese Communist Party – the political newsmagazine

China Bulletin and Tianya Zongheng, an Internet forum based in Haikou

(Hainan province) – were shut down for posting criticism of President Jiang Zemin

and his policy of economic liberalisation.

The sites of the US TV network CNN, the daily paper International Herald Tribune,

the French radio RFI, the British radio BBC, the US section of Amnesty International

and links on Chinese portals to humanitarian groups such as Doctors Without


Borders were blocked on 4 September on the eve of president Jiang’s visit to China’s

ally North Korea. The sites contained news about famine and repression in that


The online newsletter Baiyun Huanghe ( of the Science and

Technology University in Huazong (central China) was closed by the government on

6 September after students posted on it articles about the 1989 Tienanmen Square

massacre. The site, founded five years earlier, had 30,000 subscribers and focused

heavily on politics and corruption. Until it closed, students had been able to discuss

on the forum such forbidden topics as the Beijing Spring.

In October, the authorities blocked the websites of (the Human Rights

Watch site in China), (the main Human Rights Watch site),, and (Amnesty International), (the

organisation Freetibet), (the Tibetan government in exile), (CNN), (the BBC), (The Washington Post),

(the site of cyber-dissident Huang Qi) and (the dissident online newspaperVIP


The online journalists’ forum Zhejiang, hosted by the website,was closed by

the authorities on 16 October for “putting out subversive information” and “defaming

politicians and state institutions.”The forum’s moderator was dismissed after official

pressure and the site managers were obliged to tighten their surveillance of their

other forums. The authorities refused to answer questions from foreign reporters

about the closure, which happened during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

(APEC) forum in Shanghai.

At the end of US President George Bush’s official visit to China on 29 October, the

authorities again blocked access to the websites of several US media, such as CNN

and The Washington Post. However the sites of The New York Times and The

Washington Post were made accessible on 16 October when the APEC forum opened

in Shanghai

The Chinese Internet Association, which nationally responsible for supervising the

Internet, announced on 16 March 2002 a “self-discipline pact” whose signatories

would be banned from producing or passing on material “harmful to national security

and social stability.” In July, the official Xinhua news agency reported that the

main Chinese-based websites, including Yahoo, had signed the pact, along with ISPs.

In April, the webmaster of Voice of America’s Chinese-language Internet site said it

had been attacked from China. E-mails containing specially-designed viruses had

been sent to the site and attempts made to hack into it. Dissident websites, such

as the Falungong movement and pro-Tibet organisations, were also attacked. Some

of the attacks were traced back to accounts belonging to provincial offices of the

state-owned China Telecom.


The Australian TV network ABC said on 23 April that its website had been blocked

by the Chinese authorities and the network filed a complaint with the Chinese

foreign ministry against the public security ministry. An Australian embassy official

in Beijing said the blocking had been decided at the highest level, but a Chinese

government spokesman denied this. The Tibetan Dalai Lama’s visit to Australia in

May is thought to have been why the site was blocked.

The websites of foreign media, including Reuters news agency, CNN and The

Washington Post were accessible again in Beijing and Shanghai on 16 May, though

the sites of the BBC, Time magazine and The Voice of America were still blocked.

A Western diplomat in Beijing said the Chinese authorities may have realised how

easy it was to get round the blocks and that it made more sense for them to allow free

access and then watch who consulted them.

In early June, three websites –, and – were reprimanded

by the authorities for posting “unsuitable material” about the June 1989

Beijing Spring crackdown.The Beijing Daily said the move came after police inspected

the offices of nine major Chinese Internet portals. The Beijing Youth Daily said police

planned to check the content of the 827 main Chinese portals three times a week for

the next three months.

Access to the Google search-engine, which had become very popular,was blocked in

China on 31 August. Protests filled online forums from people who said they used it

to do research, not politics. Chinese and foreign business interests, normally silent

about Internet censorship, joined the criticism. “They shot themselves in the foot,”

said one European working for the Chinese government.Google negotiated with the

authorities about the blocking, the reasons for which remained a mystery. Some

noted the 14th listed result of a search for the term “Jiang Zemin,” which was an

interactive game site called “Kill the nasty dictator Jiang Zemin.”

Access to another search-engine,Altavista, was blocked on 6 September.

From 7 September, Chinese Internet users trying to access Google were redirected to

Chinese search-engines, such as Tianwang and Baidu.

Access to Google from China was restored on 12 September but is now censored.The

widespread protests and pressure from business interests is thought to have got the

ban lifted. An official spokesman said the ministry of the information industry had

“received no information about the blocking of Google and knows nothing about

access being restored.”Altavista, along with dozens of other sites, is still inaccessible.

Users noticed in September that new detection software had been installed to block

access to some pages (about Tibet, Taiwan and human rights) on certain sites. The

South China Morning Post, published in Hong Kong, reported on 27 September that

this censorship also applied to e-mail sent through servers such as Hotmail, searchengines

including Google and foreign news sites such as CNN. Most of the pages


listed by Google for the Falungong movement were inaccessible. The authorities

denied having installed such censorship.

In October, the cybercrime department in the central province of Jiangxi ordered

more than 3,000 cybercafés in the province to sell customers access cards, enabling

police to check the websites they looked at. One official said the experiment would

help prevent crime and spot criminals on the Internet.

In early January 2003, the authorities blocked access to the US site blogspot, which

specialises in posting personal diaries and is seen by more than a million people

around the world. Site chief Jason Shellen said there were no technical problems and

that it was clearly a bid to stop Chinese Internet users looking at the site. But one

Chinese fan of blogspot told Reuters news agency the censorship would not work

and that bloggers who had something to say would find a way round the ban.

On 14 April, Internet users said the Reporters Without Borders site had become inaccessible

in China.This may have been due to the posting of a press release about the

lengthy imprisonment of young cyber-dissident Liu Di.

Filters, cleaning and surveillance of online discussion forums

The main news websites have free discussion forums that are visited by hundreds of

thousands of people. But the Chinese authorities are turning them into traps for

Chinese visitors, who are sometimes arrested after posting anti-government material

on them.

Chinese discussion forums use filters to single out and put aside messages containing

forbidden words.The poster gets an automatically-generated reply saying (as on that the message has been accepted but will take a few minutes to be

revised before being posted. The webmasters are supposed to check to see if the

message really is unfit to post, but in practice, such filtered messages hardly ever

make it to the forum.“We rarely have time,” an official of the forums told

Reporters Without Borders. But “politically-correct” messages containing banned

words such as Falungong get through because they criticise the spiritual movement.

A message with a list of words being censored appeared on a forum on

11 March 2003. The poster had inserted asterisks into each word so it would not be

blocked by the filter. The list included “4 June” (date of the 1989 Tienanmen Square

massacre),“human rights,”“independence of Taiwan,”“pornography,”“oral sex,”“BBC”

and “Falungong.”The message was removed after only a few minutes.

Messages not containing banned words are posted on the forum and can be seen by

everyone. But a group of two or three “ban zhu” (webmasters) check their content at

the same time as they run the forum. They are not police or even site employees.

Most are young people, sometimes students and usually volunteers. But they have

full authority to delete messages considered undesirable. Above them are the “guan


li yuan” (forum administrators), whose job is to ensure good behaviour on the

forums.They can suspend or ban users they judge to be rude or politically incorrect.

One official told Reporters Without Borders he preferred to warn users

by e-mail first. If they did not change their ways, they were suspended for a week.

At the top of the hierarchy are the Internet monitoring services in the provincial

public security departments. It is very hard to find out officially how many clerks,

police and computer technicians are involved in such cyber-policing.

An April 2003 survey by Reporters Without Borders showed that two-thirds of all

messages submitted were posted on the discussion forums. This dropped to 55% of

messages with political content. Of that 55%, more than half were deleted by the webmasters.

So only a third of all polemical messages were accepted.

Cybercafés under surveillance

China’s semi-legal cybercafés, known as “wang ba,” are the most recent targets of the

authorities and a vast inspection campaign was launched in early 2001 because only

half of them had installed filters (obligatory under the 2000 Internet legislation) to

block access to banned websites.The campaign was stepped up in June 2002. Most of

the cybercafés (officially put at 200,000) have now been inspected and more than

half of them penalised by the authorities.The official Xinhua news agency said on 26

December the authorities had shut down 3,000 cybercafés for good and 12,000 temporarily

since the start of the inspections.

Red tape and corruption makes it very hard to get licences to run cybercafés, so most

are semi-legal.

The deputy head of Feiyu, the country’s biggest network of cybercafés (more than

400), said on 5 February 2001 that the network had been ordered to close for three

months for failing to hand over to the authorities, as required, records of customers’

online activity, including the accessing of pornographic sites, which the regime considers

“dangerous.”The move followed police investigations in the Beijing suburb of

Haidan, where Feiyu has two very big cybercafés, each with more than 800 computer


On 14 April, the government suspended the opening of new cybercafés for three

months to give it time to better regulate Internet access.

On 29 April, the authorities shut down cybercafés on Beijing’s main avenue and

within a radius of 200 metres around schools and Communist Party buildings in the city.

Police said on 2 July that at least 8,014 cybercafés had been shut down over the previous

two months and 56,800 inspected. On 20 November, the newspaper Wen Hui

Bao reported that more than 17,000 cybercafés had been closed for not having barred

access to allegedly subversive or pornographic sites.


The official Chinese People’s Daily said on 22 August that the culture ministry had

asked local authorities to launch a “spiritual cleansing” campaign, partly aimed at

shutting down clandestine cybercafés. During a conference in Beijing two days earlier

about cracking down on the spread of “corruption and decadence,” provincial

officials were asked not to issue new cybercafé licences and to punish illegal activity

in existing ones.

On 1 February 2002, police in the southwestern city of Chongqing forced cybercafé

owners to install filters to block access to websites considered as undermining “public


Between late April and early May, more than 200 cybercafés were shut down in

Shanghai for not having licences, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

Nearly 3,000 cybercafés in the city were inspected.

On 1 May, the government launched a campaign to “restore order” by tracking down

“harmful material” on the Internet, mainly by monitoring cybercafés, saying illegal

online activity was on the rise.

Officials in the southern city of Guangzhou closed nine unauthorised cybercafés

on 3 June and seized their computers.

After a fire at an illegal cybercafé in Beijing killed 24 people on 16 June, the government

began a nationwide licence inspection campaign. Thousands of cybercafés

were closed and thousands more forced to get new licences.The campaign, officially

to check safety regulations, turned into a huge repressive operation that prevented

millions of Chinese from going online.

A few hours after the cybercafé fire, for which the two young Internet users accused

of being responsible were jailed for life, Beijing mayor Liu Qi ordered all the city’s

2,400 cybercafés to close.“Our world has shrunk,”said one user during the shutdown,

which lasted several weeks. The official Chinese People’s Daily justified the measure

with the headline “Don’t let cybercafés destroy our children.”

The Beijing Evening News asked its readers to tell the authorities about illegal

cybercafés and illegal video parlours.About 30 cybercafés were allowed to reopen on

17 July after publicly promising not to admit users under the age of 18, to close

between midnight and 8 a.m. and forbid betting and violent video games.

The city council in Tianjin, north of Beijing, began inspecting all cybercafés on 17

June and the authorities in the southern province of Guangdong suspended granting

of new cybercafé licences. In Shanghai, the head of the city’s commerce and industry

department,Wei Yixin, told the newspaper Shanghai Daily that police would swiftly

shut down unlicensed cybercafés.

The Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said on 28 June that the


authorities were now requiring cybercafé owners to install filters to bar access to as

many as half a million websites and to tell police about anyone who looked at

allegedly subversive sites. Experts in Beijing said this might refer to the “Filter King”

software which is part of the “Golden Shield”project to control the Internet.The public

security ministry reportedly plans nationwide installation of the software, which

was tested in the northwestern province of Xian in 2001.

A culture ministry official announced on 29 June that all the country’s cybercafés

would have to register again with the authorities by 1 October or else they would be

closed and their owners prosecuted.

On 10 July, the 528 cybercafés in the northern province of Hebei were shut down by

the local authorities for what the Beijing Morning Post said were security problems.

A total of 3,813 cybercafés had reportedly been inspected since 17 June and 2,892 did

not conform to security regulations, it said.

On 12 August, the culture and public security ministries, as well as the industry and

trade department, banned the opening of any new cybercafé in China but experts

said this measure would be hard to apply for very long.

Prime minister Zhu Rongji enacted a new cybercafé law in late September, banning

minors and smoking and requiring them to close between midnight and 8 a.m.

Owners were also made responsible for what their customers looked at online. It

noted that it was a crime to “create, download, copy, send, distribute or look at” material

considered “anti-constitutional and harming national unity and the sovereignty

and territorial integrity” of China. Owners were required to record and keep for two

months the names of their customers and the sites they looked at, or risk fines of up

to 2,000 euros. The law came into effect on 15 November.

The Shanghai newspaper Wenhui Bao reported on 16 October that 90,000 cybercafés

had been shut down throughout the country since the inspection campaign started in

June. It quoted the culture ministry as saying that only 46,000 cybercafés had registered

so far and that inspections would continue until the end of the year.

Members of Falungong movement persecuted

Followers of the Falungong spiritual movement, dubbed a “satanic sect” by President

Jiang Zemin, have protested noisily since the movement was banned in 1999. The

authorities have cracked down on it with unusual violence, arresting, torturing and

“re-educating” thousands of members, especially those who used the Internet to

spread the words of the movement’s leader, Li Hongzhi. But the Falungong are very

well organised online, both inside China and abroad. At least 16 of its members have

been arrested for putting out or having looked at material on the Internet about the

movement.Two died of torture while in detention.

Wang Zhenyong, an assistant psychology professor at the Southwestern University,


was arrested on 2 June 2001 after e-mailing four articles about the movement that he

had downloaded from foreign websites in December 2000 and sent to a friend who

had then posted them elsewhere online.

Falungong member Li Changjun died on 27 June in detention after being tortured,

according to the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. He was

arrested on 16 May for downloading and printing out material about Falungong. He

worked at a tax office in Wuhan (Hubei province) and had been arrested several

times already for belonging to Falungong.His mother said he was covered with scars

and bruises and was very thin.

Another Falungong member, Chen Quilan, died of a heart attack on 14 August at a

detention centre in Daging, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. He had

been arrested in July for putting material about Falungong on the Internet.

Six members of the movement were convicted on 13 December for posting “subversive

material” (about Falungong) on the Internet. Yao Yue, a micro-electronics

researcher at Tsinghua University, in Beijing, was jailed for 12 years.Two university

teachers, Meng Jun and Wang Xin, were sentenced to 10 and nine years in prison

respectively. Dong Yanhong, a university employee, and her husband Li Wenyu, were

given five and three years.Wang Xuefei, a student from Shanghai, was jailed for 11


The official news agency Xinhua reported on 27 December that Falungong member

Quan Huicheng had been sent to prison for three years for downloading, photocopying

and passing on material from foreign-based Falungong websites. He had been

arrested in October near a cybercafé in Dongfang, on the southern island of Hainan.

The authorities announced on 18 February 2002 that the trial of Tsinghua University

students Lin Yang,Ma Yan, Li Chunyang, Jiang Yuxia, Li Yanfang and Huang Kui for

posting Falungong material on the Internet would not resume until after US

President George Bush’s visit to China. Their trial reportedly began in September

2001 before a court in the southern city of Zhuhai.

Cyber-dissidents in prison for disseminating material considered “subversive” by

the authorities:

1. Huang Qi

2.Yan Peng

3. Qi Yanchen

4.Yang Jianli

5. Liu Weifang

6. Hu Dalin

7.Wang Jinbo

8.Wang Sen

9. Guo Quinghai

10. Lu Xinhua

11. Chi Shouzhu

12.Yang Zili

13. Jin Haike

14. Xu Wei

15. Zhang Honghai

16. Jiang Shihua

17.Wu Yilong

18. Mu Chuanheng

19. Zhu Ruixiang

20. Li Dawei

21. Chen Shaowen

22. Liu Di

23. Ouyang Yi

24. Li Yibin

25. Jiang Lijun

26. Zhang Yuxiang




The organisation Human Rights In China


The official news agency Xinhua


Site of jailed cyber-dissident Huang Qi


Human Rights Watch reports and press releases about China


“You’ve Got Dissent! Chinese Dissident Use of the Internet and Beijing’s Counter-



News about repression of cyber-dissidents


Report on the Golden Shield project


The Falungong news site



POPULATION: 11,237,000



Internet use is very restricted and under tight surveillance. Access is only

possible with government permission and equipment is rationed.

The government says development of computers and Internet resources is a

national priority. Computers and communications minister Roberto Ignacio

González Planas said in October 2002 that the number of computers in the country

had tripled in two years and that fibre-optic cable now linked Havana and

Camagüey and would soon reach Santiago, at the other end of the island.

But material restrictions are still the main obstacle to major public expansion of the

Internet.There are only four phone lines for every hundred people and the high cost

of international calls ($2 a minute to the United States) and the rarity of lines to the

outside world, which are assigned on a political basis and closely monitored, effectively

prevent any connection through a foreign ISP.

Luis Fernández, spokesman for the Cuban government’s Cuban Interests Section

in Washington, blames the long-standing US embargo of Cuba for the dearth of

equipment. “If we didn’t have to cope with that, everyone would have computers by

now,” he says.

This dodges the fact that the necessary equipment, including the most modern, is

available in special government-run shops but only for authorised people. It also

ignores the internal trade ministry’s January 2001 ban on the sale to individuals in

these state-run shops of computers, printers, copying machines and “all other means

of large-scale printing.” If such a purchase is deemed vital, permission must be

sought from the ministry. The general sale of modems was banned. So the Internet

in Cuba is a very limited affair, even though Cuban computer firms are perfectly

familiar with all aspects of the technology.

Priority for institutions

The government passed laws as soon as the Internet appeared in Cuba. In June 1996,

Decree 209 (entitled “Access to the World Computer Network from Cuba”) said it



could not be used “in violation of the moral principles of Cuban society and its laws”

and that Internet messages must not “endanger national security.”

Cuban who want to log on to it or use public access points must have official permission,

and give a “valid reason” for wanting to and sign a contract listing restrictions.

Decree 209 says access is granted “with priority given to bodies and institutions that

can contribute to the life and development of the country.”Apart from embassies and

foreign companies, this means political figures, top officials, intellectuals, academics,

researchers and journalists working for the government,managers of cultural bodies

geared to exports, computer firms and the Catholic hierarchy. Cuban export firms

have access to national e-mail and the local Intranet.

A ministry of computers and communications was set up on 13 January 2000 to

“regulate,manage, supervise and monitor”Cuban policy on communications technology,

computers, telecommunications, computer networks, broadcasting, radio

frequencies, postal services and the electronics industry.

Beatriz Alonso, head of Citmatel, one of the country’s two ISPs, said in the official

daily Granma International on 18 June 2001 that “Internet use by our institutions

means having access to information we need in today’s world.We don’t have the sites

about pornography, terrorism and other evils that are common in capitalist countries,

especially the United States. Internet use in Cuba is based on ethics and humanism.

We encourage exchange of information for our professionals and technicians, publicise

Cuba’s development achievements and give our schoolchildren and students

sources of knowledge.”

The country’s two servers are Citmatel and CenaInternet, a branch of the ministry of

science, technology and the environment, and Infocom, which belongs to the Italian-

Cuban telecommunications firm Etecsa.

E-mail under close scrutiny

A black-market in e-mail addresses has developed for the few Cubans who have a

computer.A Monitoring and Supervision Agency was set up on 1 January 2001 in the

ministry of computers and communications to track down people who “improperly”

used the Internet. Its head, Carlos Martínez Albuerne, said in an article in the daily

paper Granma on 23 April 2003 that in 2002, sanctions had been taken against

31 people for this reason or for “using e-mail addresses that did not belong to them.”

He did not say what the punishment was.

Where e-mail is concerned, obeying the rules means agreeing to be monitored. Since

September 2001, Cubans have been able to access from the Etecsa centres a special

national e-mail service without connecting to the Internet. An ID card to use this

service costs $5 for four hours (the average Cuban monthly wage is about $10).The

applicant must prove identity, fill in a long form and give an address. The ISP can

thus monitor beforehand all messages being sent or received and decide whether to


deliver them. Some users have noticed delays in their e-mail, which sometimes even

“disappears,” especially when sent or received from abroad.

Vicenç Sanclemente, former Havana correspondent for the Spanish TV station TVE,

tells how in 1999, he was worried he had not received any e-mail at his office because

he was expecting an important message from the Dominican Republic. He contacted

the communications ministry technician who had set up his e-mail connection, fearing

there had been a technical problem. The official told him he had not turned on

the computer at his home for the past few days and informed him that waiting for

him on it were “three messages from the Dominican Republic, two from Barcelona,

one from Montse and another from Margaret.”

Access to cybercafés is restricted for Cubans. Visiting foreigners who show their

passports can now access the Internet in Havana’s two cybercafés, while nearly all

the city’s big hotels have an Internet centre. Etecsa is also increasing the number of

phone and Internet access points in Havana and provincial towns for use by foreigners

and authorised Cubans.Web-surfing is unrestricted at these access points,

although ISPs can, and do from time to time, block access to some sites.

Modem links are adequate but the cost of connection is prohibitive – at least $8 an

hour, compared with the Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where high-speed

links cost only $2. So very few people go online.

Members of the National Writers’ and Artists’ Union (UNEAC) have their own cybercafé,

El Aleph, at the Book Institute in Havana, where they can do e-mail and access

a national Intranet which carries officially-approved websites.

The government is setting up through youth organisations about 300 Internet clubs

around the country and increasing the number of computer training courses.When

these centres are connected up, Internet access will be restricted to the officiallyapproved


A window of freedom…

Despite the very tight control, the Internet is opening a window of freedom in Cuba

and the audience of the country’s independent journalists has expanded. The creation

abroad (mainly in Miami) of websites or web pages carrying news they send out

by phone or fax means wide distribution for material they still cannot publish in

Cuba. Their articles are now stored and accessible to the whole world when before

they were only to be fleetingly heard on Radio Martí (US government-funded and

operating from the US), which is not picked up easily in Cuba.

News such as the arrest of a regime opponent, a social trend among the population

or initiatives by civil society groups – things that used to be ignored abroad – are thus

now immediately reported to the outside world and increasingly reproduced by the

international media, a sign of the independent journalists’ growing credibility and



However, the spread of even a small amount of new technology and Internet access

has led to a limited but well-organised black market. Some registered users rent out

their log-on names and passwords for about $60 a month (equal to about six months

salary), while others bring customers to their private point of access and charge for

time online. Staff at the Etecsa centres, who have a password to connect up tourists

and registered users, give friends and relatives demonstrations of the Internet and

sometimes charge for it.

Some Internet users have reportedly managed to smuggle into the country receiver

dishes and modems to connect to big US-based satellite ISPs such as Starband and

DirecPC, with the cost paid by relatives in the US ($500 for signing up and $100 a

month subscription).

…closely watched

José Orlando González Bridón, secretary-general of the illegal Cuban Democratic

Workers’ Confederation (CTDC),was arrested on 15 December 2000 and became the

first opposition activist to be sent to prison for publishing something on the Internet.

In an article that had appeared on 5 August that year on the Florida-based site, he had blamed police for the death of the CTDC’s national

coordinator, Joanna González Herrera. He was accused of “subversion” for also having

sent the article to a Miami radio station.

He was freed on parole on 22 November 2001 three weeks before the end of his sentence,

officially for “good behaviour.” He said he thought he was really released then

because the government wanted to make a public relations gesture on the eve of the

23-24 November Ibero-American Summit in Peru of 23 heads of state from Latin

America, Spain and Portugal. He was also let out a week before a meeting in Havana

to restart political talks with the European Union (EU), which since 1996 has conditioned

its aid to Cuba on increased respect for human rights and political freedom.At

the time, Cuba was keen to join the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the

Africa-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group of countries.

González Bridón said he was held in prison at Combinado del Este (Havana

province) in a punishment cell where the toughest prisoners were normally sent for

maximum three-week periods.He was kept apart from other prisoners for 10 months

and his only piece of furniture was a bed brought to his cell at 6 in the evening and

taken away again at 6 in the morning.His wife Maria Esther Valdés was only allowed

to visit him every three weeks. The prison authorities refused to give him a special

diet he needed to control his high blood pressure, but he managed to avoid serious

health problems.

He said he had witnessed brutal treatment of prisoners and had denounced corruption

at the prison, where prisoners paid guards to get better conditions or obtain drugs.

His trial took place on 24 May 2001 after several postponements. Foreign media and

regime opponents were kept away by heavy security and only his family was allowed


to attend. The rest of the public gallery was filled with police. He was sentenced on

2 June to two years in prison for “putting out false news harming the reputation and

image of the Cuban state” with “clear intent to collaborate with a foreign power.”

At an appeal hearing on 21 August, the charges against him were altered to “denigrating

institutions, organisations and heroes and martyrs” and the sentence was

reduced to a year’s imprisonment. Friends said the Internet article was used as an

excuse by the authorities to punish him for his overall anti-government activity.


Sites carrying articles by independent journalists inside Cuba:


• (in Spanish)

• (in Spanish)

• (in Spanish)


Government “Internet and Institutions” portal


Government media portal




POPULATION: 5,333,000



In October 2001, soon after the 11 September attacks, the government moved

to fight terrorism with a legislative package that rewrote laws about justice,

internal affairs, the economy and taxes.

It asked the justice ministry to take steps to legalise retention of phone, e-mail and

Internet connection data and to see that police had faster and easier access to such

personal information. The 31 May 2002 anti-terrorist law extended the minimum

time for data retention to a year and allowed police and intelligence agents to look at

such material with court permission where serious crimes were involved and to

install on ISP servers software similar to the US Carnivore system to record keystrokes

and intercept e-mail.

The Danish presidency of the European Union (EU) tried to impose this approach on

other member-states when it made a proposal on 24 June 2002 called “information

technology related measures concerning the investigation and prosecution of organised

crime.” It said all member-states would soon have to take steps to oblige phone

companies and ISPs to retain all their traffic records “so security services can readily

consult it in the course of their investigations.”

In September 2002, the government tempered its restrictive measures by setting

up a commission to safeguard citizens’ computer rights which was due to make

proposals in June 2003.



The organisation Digital Rights


The data protection agency Datatilsynet



POPULATION: 69,080,000



The authorities tightened their control of the Internet in 2002 by setting up

a government department to investigate online crime.

The Internet has grown faster in Egypt than in most Middle Eastern countries.

Introduced in 1993, it has been available to the public since 1995 and since

then has steadily grown more popular.

The communications and information technology ministry ended the monopoly the

state had exercised through Telecom Egypt and opened up the sector in early 2002

with a scheme allowing ISPs to assign special phone numbers to users with a computer

and modem.The customers were not obliged to commit themselves to one ISP.

The aim was to boost the number of Internet users and get Egyptians used to new


The country’s traditional media is closely watched, but until recently no specific laws

applied to the Internet. But in September 2002, the interior ministry set up a department

to investigate computer and Internet crime and its director,Ahmed Essmat, told

Al Ahram that his staff monitored the Internet daily.

At the end of 2001 and early 2002, Internet users were warned off taboo issues (such

as relations between Copts and Muslims, publicising terrorist ideas, human rights

violations, criticising the president, his family and the army and promoting modern

versions of Islam) and told that too much outspokenness was unwelcome.

Moreover, when 52 homosexuals were tried by the state security court at the end of

2001, the gay community’s websites were targeted by police. One even put a notice on

its homepage saying:“Guess who’s watching us? The state security police!”

Traps were set up by the police.Two men made rendezvous with visitors through gay

sites who turned out to be policemen, who arrested them.

In mid-December 2002, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPPR)

expressed concern about a new communications bill, noting that its article 65 was



very vague in allowing the army, police and state security officials to access any

communications network “for reasons of internal security.”These objections resulted

in amendments to the bill, which was adopted at the end of the month.Article 65 now

says citizens have a right to privacy and says security agencies can only intercept private

communications “in accordance with the law.”They must obtain a court order to

do so which is limited to 30 days and is only to be granted in connection with serious

crimes or offences punishable by more than three months in prison.

Tried for putting a 30-year-old poem online

Shohdy Surur, webmaster of the English-language Al Ahram Weekly, was sentenced

to a year in prison on 30 June 2002 for posting on another website a sexually-explicit,

socially critical poem written by his late father 30 years ago.

Article 178 of the penal code forbids possession of material for sale or distribution

“with intent to corrupt public morals.” Surur had posted on, which is

partly devoted to the work of his poet and actor father Naguib, a poem called Kuss

Ummiyat, which contained passages said to be “an affront to public morals.”

The poem was written by the elder Surur in earthy and sexually-explicit language, as

a criticism of Egyptian society and culture after the country’s defeat in the 1967 Six-

Day War with Israel. He several times likened Egypt to a prostitute. Since no law

refers to the Internet, the state brought charges under the law on public morals.

The poem had been on the US-based for the previous three years. Its

author, who died in 1978, was never prosecuted for writing it. Shohdy Surur was

arrested on 22 November 2001 at his home, which was searched and his computer

seized.Police interrogated him for three days.The prison sentence on Surur,who has

dual Russian and Egyptian nationality and lives in Russia, was confirmed by an

appeals court on 14 October 2002.

A 19-year-old student, Andy Ibrahim Shukri, was arrested, tried and sentenced

in April 2002 to a month in jail for “putting old false information” after he had sent

e-mail messages about a serial killer on the loose in Cairo.



The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights


European institutions

The European Union was once firmly opposed to any form of large-scale

generalised or exploratory electronic surveillance, but it changed its position

after the 11 September attacks. Its Council won a battle to impose the

views of the 15 member-states on the European Parliament and push

through laws to require systematic retention of data about telecommunications

and Internet activity.

Until late summer 2001, the official policy of the 15 member-countries of the

European Union (EU) about regulation of cyberspace dismissed any idea of

systematic retention of Internet connection records and monitoring Internet

activity. The 11 September attacks changed that.

In mid-October, US President George W. Bush urged Belgian prime minister Guy

Verhofstadt, who was EU president at the time, to get a proposed amendment to the

Directive on Protection of Telecommunications Data and Information altered to

require “preventive retention” of data on Internet activity (traffic logs) as a means to

fight terrorism. Bush expressed support for the British government (which, like the

French, has introduced such data retention) and various EU police officials calling

for new powers to monitor phone and Internet activity more effectively.

Bush told Verhofstadt the United States was against automatic deletion of Internet

connection records, a principle that was upheld in the proposed amendment. This

position clashed with that of the European Parliament’s Citizens’ Freedoms and

Rights Committee, which in July 2001 had approved a preliminary report by Radical

MEP Marco Cappato for strict supervision of police access to traffic logs retained by

phone companies and ISPs.

Surveillance forbidden

The Cappato report said that if such practices were to be allowed, EU member-states

should be obliged to act under “a specific law comprehensible to the general public.”

The measures would have to be “entirely exceptional, authorised by the judicial or

competent authorities for individual cases and for a limited duration, appropriate,

proportionate and necessary within a democratic society.”They should also be in line

with EU human rights rulings, which forbid all forms of “wide-scale general or

exploratory electronic surveillance.”

But under intense pressure from the Council of the European Union (that groups all



member-states) and despite energetic lobbying by many NGOs, Euro MPs approved

the amended directive on 30 May 2002. Its article 15.1 obliges governments that do

not yet have such legislation, to pass laws (within 15 months) to force ISPs and

phone companies to retain all records of e-mails, Internet activity, faxes and phone

calls that have passed through their hands and guarantee the police, the courts and

some government bodies free access to it.

A report by the Council of 15’s legal department released on 15 October 2001 had

said however that EU governments already had the necessary powers to intercept

telecommunications to fight terrorism.

Convention on Cybercrime

The first International Convention on Cybercrime was opened for signature in

November 2001 in Budapest. It details various procedures, such as searching computer

networks and intercepting messages. The pact, which was four years in the

making, comes into effect when ratified by at least five countries, three of them

Council of Europe members. It has so far been signed by 34 countries, including the

United States, Canada, Japan and South Africa, but only two (Albania and Croatia)

have ratified it.

The agreement was attacked by civil liberties campaigners, ISPs and cyberspace

experts who called it anti-freedom, meddling and likely to encourage a new era of

generalised surveillance. Especially criticised were its articles 19, 20 and 21, which

give details of how to gather private Internet data and traffic logs and information of

interest to security services for their investigations; gather records kept by ISPs;

search websites and their ISPs and extend such searches to other computer networks

if necessary; store the data seized; and if necessary gather in real-time records

and traffic logs (with legal officials able to require ISPs to do this work themselves).

“Generalised surveillance” of Europeans

The situation may get even worse. The Danish presidency of the EU proposed a

measure on 24 June 2001 that the Council of the European Union might adopt. It was

called “information technology related measures concerning the investigation and

prosecution of organised crime” and said that “in the near future, all member-states

will need to have adopted suitable measures to oblige telephone companies and ISPs

to retain all records of their traffic so security services can readily consult it in the

course of their investigations.” The proposal also aims to standardise the laws of all

European countries, including those seeking to join the EU.


• The European Parliament

• The Council of Europe



POPULATION: 59,453,000

INTERNET USERS: 18,716,000


New laws to fight terrorism and cybercrime are threatening the protection

of news and journalistic sources.

The government’s anti-terrorism measure, the Law on Everyday Security

(LSQ), urgently approved almost unanimously by parliament without discussion

on 15 November 2001, extended to a year the minimum period ISPs must

keep a record of their customers’ Internet activity and e-mail traffic.

The law allows judges to use “secret methods that cannot be revealed for reasons of

national defence” to decode e-mail messages and requires encryption firms to hand

over their codes so the authorities can read the messages. Campaigners for freedom

of expression protested against such hasty passage of a measure that had not been

discussed or negotiated and which threatened the principle of confidentiality of

professional and private communications.

Another measure, the Internal Security Policy and Planning Law (LOPSI), passed on

31 July 2002, allows police detectives to make remote online searches of ISPs with

prior court permission and have “direct access to data considered necessary to

establish the truth.”

A bill on the digital economy (LEN), presented on 15 January 2003 to incorporate into

French law the 2000 European directive on e-commerce, contains a clause about the

civil and criminal responsibility of ISPs that France’s Constitutional Court had struck

out of a bill on the information society drafted by the previous government in 2001.

The clause (article 2) relieves ISPs of civil and criminal responsibility if they had “no

knowledge of illegal activity or material”or if they “acted promptly to remove or block

access to it as soon as they discovered it.” ISPs are also exempted from civil responsibility

if they “have no knowledge of how the illegal activity or material arose.”These

conditions encourage harassment by pressure groups and open the way to private

censorship and self-censorship by ISPs. The bill was passed on a first reading by

parliament on 25 February.





The organisation Iris (“Let’s Imagine an Internet of Solidarity)


National Commission on Cyber-freedoms


Key official documents




POPULATION: 82,007,000

INTERNET USERS: 35,000,000


The Internet For All programme launched in 2000 by Chancellor Gerhard

Schroeder is a big reason for the broad success of the Internet, but this concerted

effort is accompanied by strict laws.

AJuly 1996 law requires ISPs to give the secret services access to their Internet

traffic and one in August 1997 makes them responsible for the content of the

sites they host, although only if they are aware of it.

The G-10 law,which limits protection of communications,was amended in 2001. ISPs

were asked to give the secret services every facility to monitor or intercept national

or international electronic or voice communications. The ISPs were also strongly

advised to “police” the content of websites. The law includes a long and generalised

list of crimes justifying Internet surveillance covering not only suspects but anyone

who might have had contact with them.

The 11 September attacks led to an anti-terrorist law pushed through parliament by

interior minister Otto Schily at the end of 2001. The Telecommunications

Interception Order, which came into force in January 2002, allows intelligence officials

and police to access traffic records stored in digital form, including details of

services used by customers, e-mail exchanges, data enabling senders or users to be

identified and the records of telecommunications firms.

Twenty or so civil rights, freedom of expression and personal data protection organisations

formed a coalition to condemn such surveillance. They said the law would

not stop terrorism and criticised the legal concept behind the measures.

The media revealed in June 2001 that the government had allowed the country to

become a link in the US Echelon electronic spy network. The Bavarian daily paper

Merkur, which published a US military intelligence report, said the US base at Bad

Aibling (Bavaria) housed one of Echelon’s biggest European electronic monitoring

and interception centres, after the US base at Menwith Hill, in Britain. It enabled the

US to spy on e-mails sent from much of Europe, including all the former Soviet bloc.

The disclosure caused an especially big stir in Germany because the country was not



a signatory of the UKUSA agreement, which organises the sharing out of surveillance

work between the US, Britain, Canada,Australia and New Zealand.

The North Westphalia provincial authorities began compiling a blacklist of websites

in October 2001 and asked more than 80 local ISPs to block access to them using software

developed by the firms Bocatel, Intranet and Webwasher. On 8 February 2002,

for example, they asked for two US-based neo-Nazi websites to be blocked. The

German Association to Protect Electronic Rights (FITUG) and many Internet users

have protested at this censorship, which affects communication infrastructures

themselves more than it does the authors of website material that violates the

Constitution or human rights. Internet users fear the filtering will be extended to

other parts of the Web. The blocks are easily got round by accessing the sites from

another province in Germany.



The federal government


The German Association to Protect Electronic Rights (FITUG) (in German)



POPULATION: 1,025,096,000

INTERNET USERS: 16,580,000


The Internet’s promising future in India is hampered by poor quality phone

lines and pressures from the government. Two laws, one of them passed

after the 11 September attacks, allow monitoring of the Internet and criminalises

much activity by users.

Parliament approved the Information Technology Act in May 2000 to crack

down on cybercrime, which it defines as unauthorised access to electronic

data. Hacking is punishable by up three years in prison and heavy fines.

Cybercafés and the homes of Internet users can be searched at any time without

a warrant if cybercrime is suspected and those who set up “anti-Indian” websites

can be jailed for five years.

The press revealed in March 2001 that police and government agencies were regularly

harassing ISPs to provide personal information about their customers. The

head of one of the biggest ISPs,, said he was being approached about once

a month but refused to cooperate. The boss of Satyam Infoway, another major ISP,

said he was under constant pressure of this kind.

Registration of cybercafé customers

The strict legal regulation of the Internet allows prosecution of anyone violating

what the government considers moral and political rules. In April 2001, police investigated

pupils at one of New Delhi’s biggest schools, accusing them of creating a

“pornographic” website featuring their teachers and classmates. The probe began

after the father of one pupil saw the name of his daughter on the site.

The authorities regularly condemn pornographic sites as the plague of the Internet,

but they are hugely popular with customers of the cybercafés that are opening everywhere

in major cities. Cybercafé owners make a goodwill gesture to the government

by displaying warning notices to discourage their young customers.

Police in Mumbai announced in May 2001 that anyone wanting to use a cybercafé

there would need to show an ID, driving licence or student card or for foreigners a



passport or plane ticket. Customers deemed bona fide would be given a special card

they could use on each visit. Cybercafé owners opposed the measure, but the authorities

argued that they received some 50 complaints a day about credit card fraud,

hacking, supposed terrorist activities or pornography on the Internet.

In June 2002, the Indian Intelligence Bureau reportedly asked the American FBI to

help it develop software to tap into mobile phones and e-mail messages of members

of criminal and terrorist groups. The news site said talks were going on to

establish this link between the two intelligence agencies.

Confidentiality of journalists’ sources under threat

In November 2001, an anti-terrorist law (the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance –

POTO) was passed in the wake of the 11 September attacks, allowing the government

to monitor all kinds of electronic communications, including personal e-mail, without

legal restriction. Evidence gathered this way can be used in court against a suspect.

In an attempt to justify its anti-terrorist and anti-cybercrime policy, the government

said it would share this information with the US intelligence services.

As important users of the Internet, journalists were especially targeted in the first

draft of the new law, which proposed jail terms of five years for failure to give the

authorities information about terrorists or terrorist organisations. After protests by

the opposition and human rights and freedom of expression activists, this clause,

obliging journalists to reveal their sources,was dropped and law adopted for a period

of three years instead of five.

Tehelka brings down the defence minister

This attempt to control the Internet did not however prevent people from using it as

a new vehicle of press freedom. In March 2001, a news site called Tehelka (which

means “great excitement” in Hindi) lived up to its name. Investigative journalists,

equipped with video cameras and pretending to be arms merchants, revealed that

politicians, civil servants and top army officers had accepted bribes and the services

of prostitutes in exchange for helping businessmen get government and especially

military contracts.This corruption enquiry rocked the political class and the government

itself and defence minister George Fernandes and the president of the ruling

Bharatiya Janata Party, Bangaru Laxman, were forced to resign.

The scandal highlighted the possibilities of the Internet as a new medium, but also

drew a repressive reaction. The editor of Tehelka complained of efforts by the prime

minister’s office to discredit the site, accusing it being in the pay of Pakistani intelligence

and organised crime. The journalists who broke the scandal were physically

threatened and had to be given heavy police protection.

About 20 intelligence agents from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

searched the New Delhi offices of Tehelka on 26 June 2002, as well as the home of one


of its journalists,Kumar Badal. He was accused of hiring two poachers to film and kill

two of a protected species of leopards in the jungle in Saharanpur, in the northern

state of Uttar Pradesh. But the CBI could not produce any incriminating evidence

from among the material they had seized in their searches.

However, the agents reportedly confiscated papers about the founding of the website,

including e-mails from Shankar Sharma, owner of the company First Global and

the first to bankroll the operation, who is now in prison.

The searches were ordered a few hours before the website’s chief editor, Tarun

Tejpal, was due to give evidence to the Venkataswami Commission set up by the

government to look into the corruption revealed by the site.The hearing of Tejpal, set

for the same day as that of the former president of the Samata party, Jaya Jaitly – the

alleged contact between the defence minister and the arms dealers – was postponed.

The website’s lawyer,Kavin Gulati, said the enquiry had reached a crucial moment of

cross-examining witnesses, which suggested that the date of the search was deliberately

chosen. A CBI spokesman said it was “sheer coincidence.”

Badal was arrested on 3 July and went on hunger strike for several days in protest

against his imprisonment. He was being held under the Wildlife Protection Act and

was humiliated in various ways.“I’ve been subjected to all this just because I work for

Tehelka, which is determined to expose high-level corruption,” he said.

He was freed on 13 January 2003 on bail of 50,000 rupees (nearly 1,000 euros) by a

simple decision of the supreme court. But federal police vainly tried to block his

release, saying investigations were not yet complete. Badal was put under house

arrest in New Delhi and has to report to the CBI on the first Monday of each month.

He was also banned from going to the Saharanpur district, where the complaint

against him was filed.

The harassment of Tehelka partly explained why the site announced in early 2003

it could not longer keep up a daily edition.Tejpal said that despite the reputation the

site had gained and the praise it had received, Tehelka had been relentlessly victimised

because of its revelations about the military.For two years, the staff had been

harassed and arrested, and had shrunk from 120 to three, and the site’s debts had

mounted. He said he hoped the site would eventually return to help build free media

in India.

Journalist jailed for downloading material from the Internet

Police in New Delhi charged journalist Iftikhar Gilani, New Delhi bureau chief of the

Kashmir Times and correspondent for the Pakistani daily The Nation, with spying for

Pakistan on 7 September 2002 by passing on details to Pakistani officials of the

position of Indian troops and paramilitary forces in Kashmir. The charges were

based on clauses of the Official Secrets Act and also articles of the Penal Code relat-


ing to criminal conspiracy and pornography. He had been arrested on 9 June.

After first accusing him of financial irregularities, spying and involvement in

pornography, police then said he had downloaded a document from the Internet

about the fighting in Kashmir and had admitted it was to be handed to Pakistan.This

material was available to any member of the public, but the judge in charge of the

case said she had not had time to look at the website in question to check. Gilani said

he had been beaten by other detainees at Tihar prison, near New Delhi, and refused

access to the library.His several requests for release on bail were rejected.

An army intelligence official told a judge on 23 December that no secret information

had been found on Gilani’s computer, obliging the government to drop prosecution of

him and ask for his release. When he came out of prison on 13 January 2003, he

called on journalists and politicians to see that the state secrets law was repealed.



The independent news site Tehelka


The Department of Telecommunications


The independent magazine Frontline


The computer magazine Dataquest



POPULATION: 71,369,000



With the regime’s closure of nearly 100 newspapers since April 2000, the

Internet has become the means for journalists to speak out freely and call

for more freedoms and reforms in the country. Both the regime’s hardliners

and the reformers, horrified by the new tool, have strengthened their control

of the Internet. Several people running websites have been arrested

since January 2003, along with Internet users.

Privately-owned ISPs began operating timidly in 1994 in the shadow of the big

government-controlled ISP, Data Communication Company of Iran (DCI), run

by the intelligence ministry. Internet fans were heartened when the reformist

Mohammad Khatami became president in 1997.

With the shutdown of nearly 100 newspapers since April 2000, the reformists set up

websites such as Emrooz, Rouydad and Alliran.Women’s sites, such as Zanan Iran

and Zan, were also founded. In 2002, Iranians, especially young people and women,

became enthusiastic about weblogs, personal sites where they can get round the censors

by using a false name. This passion for the Internet (with at least 1,500 cybercafés

in Teheran alone) quickly scared the regime, which took steps to control it.

Privately-owned ISPs must get permission to operate from the ministries of intelligence

and Islamic guidance and use filters on website viewing and e-mail messages.

Each user has to sign a statement promising not to look at “non-Islamic” sites.

Owners of cybercafés, which are very popular with young people, students and intellectuals,

especially in the capital, ask their customers to disconnect if they catch them

looking at “non-Islamic” sites. Anti-government sites are based abroad and are much

visited by Iranians who manage to get around the censorship.

Measures to stifle the Internet

The regime stepped up its control of cybercafés in May 2001, closing 400 of them in

Teheran. Some have since reopened, but in November that year, the Supreme

Council of the Cultural Revolution, chaired by President Khatami but dominated by



hardliners, ordered all privately-owned ISPs to shut down or put themselves under

government control.

Intelligence minister Ali Yunessi, on 2 January 2003, denounced the “underground

war” he said was being waged through websites that “put out rumours and disinformation

about all government bodies and their officials.”

A commission of officials from the culture and intelligence ministries and the staterun

radio and TV was set up that month to compile a list of news sites considered

“illegal.” It was to be handed to the posts and telecommunications ministry, which

would pass it on to ISPs, who would block access to them. The list is thought to

contain between 100 and 300 websites, most of them sources of news.

In early May, the country’s prosecutor-general, Abdolnabi Namazi, announced a new

commission to deal with offences committed online. He said people who posted

material on sites created in Iran “must respect the Constitution and the press law or

else risk being prosecuted. Until we have a law about Internet offences,” he said,

“courts can use the press law,” which provides for heavy prison sentences.The commission’s

main job is to draft an Internet law.

Deputy posts and telecommunications minister Massud Davari-Nejad said in May

that the ministry had moved to block access to “immoral sites and political sites that

insult the country’s political and religious leaders.” So when people try to access an

“illegal” site, they are cautioned that “on orders from the posts and telecommunications

ministry, visiting this site is not permitted.”

Measures were also taken against ISPs. Five privately-owned ones in the northern

city of Tabriz were shut down in early May because they had not installed filters

against banned sites. Most of the ISPs still operating there were government-controlled.

At least seven ISPs were also closed down in Teheran for the same reasons.

The hardliners were not the only ones trying to control the Internet. In May, two

reformist figures, government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh and posts and

telecommunications minister Ahmad Motamedi,warned ISPs to apply the new rules

and said the system of filters was quite legal.

Webmasters and Internet users arrested

Javad Tavaf, editor of the news website Rangin Kaman, which for a year had been

criticising the Guide of the Islamic Revolution, Ali Khamenei, and was very popular,

was arrested at his home on 16 January 2003 by justice ministry officials. He was

freed two days later.

Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara, editor of the news site Alliran, was arrested on

18 February at his home by plainclothes state security agents and his house and

office searched and a large amount of written material seized. A week earlier, he had


posted an article on his website calling for a reform of the Constitution. He also wrote

that the wishes of Iranians had been “hijacked by six religious figures on the Council

of Guardians,” a body controlled by hardliners and appointed by Khamenei, which

supervises elections and ratifies laws.He was freed a few days later.

Nearly 70 schoolchildren were arrested in Teheran in March for using the Internet to

organise dates and forbidden sexual relations.They were freed a few days later.

Sina Motallebi, a journalist with the reformist daily Hayat-é-No and editor of the

website Rooznegar,was arrested on 20 April after being summoned the previous day

by the Teheran police’s morality section, Adareh Amaken, which is close to the intelligence

services.After the closure of the paper in January, he had revived the website

and used it to defend one of the paper’s journalists,Alireza Eshraghi, who had been

arrested on 11 January. The site, which especially defends imprisoned journalists,

had angered some legal officials and also a number of reformists by criticising them

for their silence about the arrests of journalists. He was freed on 12 May.

The Internet also used as a propaganda tool

The hardliners’ distrust of the Internet does not stop them using it to spread their

own propaganda, with sites such as and religious city of

Qom also turns out several thousand students each year trained in computers and

the Internet who are supposed to use their knowledge to serve the country and

further Islam.


News sites:


• (in Persian)

• (in Persian)

• (in Persian)

• (in Persian)

• (in Persian)

Women’s sites






POPULATION: 23,584,000

The fall of President Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in April 2003 after the

US-British invasion raised many hopes of change for the country’s media,

especially concerning Internet activity.

Under the old regime, all news was controlled by the authorities and the media

was censored. Internet access was likewise the monopoly of the country’s

sole ISP, Uruklink, which was an arm of the ministry of culture and information.

Iraqis could only go online at 26 “Internet centres” around the country. Private or

home connections were not available. Foreign experts said this was because the

authorities had not yet mastered the use of programmes to screen and block access

to websites.

Staff at the “Internet centres” told foreigners not to try to connect to their personal

e-mail sites, since Hotmail and a very large number of foreign sites and portals were

inaccessible, according to a BBC journalist, who said looking for a way round this was

a real challenge. Officials from the government’s Internet department prowled the

centres and if they spotted anyone trying to connect to a banned foreign site, they cut

off the line and asked you to leave.

But the regime’s main weapon in curbing Internet access was the high cost of connection.

An hour online cost one dollar, and someone who worked for the government

(the main source of employment) only earned five dollars a month.

In the Kurdish part of the country, the situation was very different,with much greater

media freedom and much more Internet activity and access.



Independent news agency




POPULATION: 57,503,000

INTERNET USERS: 17,000,000


After the 11 September attacks, government efforts to reform the country’s

intelligence services and fight cybercrime led to a substantial increase in

monitoring of the Internet.

The government pushed through parliament at the end of 2001 a reform of the

national intelligence services, which allowed the civil (SISDE) and military

(SISMI) secret services, as well as the carabinieri and the regular police, to install

phone and electronic taps simply with permission from the state prosecutor.

The inherent secrecy of these special services hides the exact nature of the surveillance,

but privacy and confidentiality protection organisations have strongly

criticised the measure.

Italy, which held the presidency of the informal G8 group of countries at the time of

the 11 September attacks, also laid the first stone, in a government statement on 19

September 2001, of a policy of “fighting Internet and high tech crimes.” This led to

strengthening the powers, resources and activities of the G8 group.

Experts at the June 2002 G8 meeting in Canada of eight heads of government said

the G8 network of originally 16 (now 26) countries enables speedy cooperation

between international police forces when urgent response is required to high tech

crimes, including e-mail messages between terrorists and other criminals.

The G8 meeting noted that legal experts and police had developed ways to detect the

origin, destination and routing of terrorist and criminal messages on the Internet,

ways to get electronic proof of it and to ensure retention of such evidence so that it

was not deleted or altered.

Internet freedom organisations have especially protested about the controversial

amendment of the European Directive on Protection of Telecommunications Data and

Information (see section on the European institutions) approved on 30 May 2002 and

authorising member-states to retain phone and Internet connection records (traffic logs).


• Electronic Frontier Italy

Association for Interactive Electronic Communication Freedom (ALCEI-EFI)





POPULATION: 127,335,000

INTERNET USERS: 57,200,000


The huge success of the Internet, especially via mobile phones, has been

spoiled by disclosure of the country’s participation in the US electronic

spying network Echelon and by creation of software to intercept e-mails.

The Japanese, famously passionate about communications, gadgets and digital

technology, enthusiastically took to the Internet early on. As well as subscriptions

to ISPs, cybercafés are everywhere and the arrival of i-mode, launched

by Do Co Mo, a subsidiary of the big Japanese mobile phone company NTT, has

started a new way of surfing the Web.

I-mode is the first successful link-up between mobile phones and the Internet,

allowing phone calls, watching high-definition videos, listening to MP3 music and

accessing a range of Internet services. Between 15 and 20 million people, mostly

young people between 15 and 34, have taken to it.

Ironically, the country is not as advanced as other rich countries when it comes

to speedy connections in homes and government offices, notably the education

ministry. In March 2001, the government unveiled a catch-up plan called “e-Japan

strategy” to build an infrastructure over five years giving 30 million Japanese homes

high-speed Internet access and 10 million others very high-speed access.

Both accomplice and victim of spying

Japan was rocked in 2001 by the revelation that the government was taking part in

the electronic spy network Echelon set up by the US National Security Agency. The

network’s giant dishes, monitoring and interception centres at strategic points

around the globe (the US, Britain, New Zealand, Japan and elsewhere), can pick up,

sort out and analyse traffic sent via fixed-line and mobile phones, satellite, opticfibre

lines and microwaves.

The scandal broke on 20 June, when a delegation of several NGOs, led by the

Networkers against Surveillance Taskforce (NaST) which has campaigned since

1997 against generalised surveillance through new communications technology, for-


mally asked parliament to clarify Japan’s role in the Echelon network. Japan had

allowed the US to build a monitoring centre at its military base at Misawa, in northern

Honshu island, but was Japan itself was a victim of this spying, as senior finance

and foreign trade ministry officials repeatedly insist.

The daily paper Mainichi Shimbun, found some answers. It reported on 26 June that

New Zealand was the key ally of US spying on Japan through Echelon. This was

backed up by Duncan Campbell, an expert with the investigation into Echelon set up

by the European Parliament. He cited examples of US spying on Japan during

Japanese trade negotiations.

The Japanese government was especially embarrassed by the revelations because

they were accused of complicity.As well as participating in Echelon, the government

has built up its own monitoring capacity.The magazine ZDnet quoted a Japanese military

source as saying Japan had equipped a fleet of five EP-3 planes with electronic

interception and monitoring equipment.The data gathered is processed at the Tokyo

headquarters of the Japanese Defence Agency, it said.

Parliament voted in March 2001 to spend more than a million dollars to create an

e-mail monitoring software called “Kari-no-mail.”It was ready by the end of that year

and is reportedly being installed on the country’s ISPs. But Japanese security officials

have never told the politicians exactly how far things have gone. Freedom of expression

and civil liberties organisations are demanding openness about it and demanding

that use of the software be stopped.



About the Echelon network


Networkers against Surveillance Taskforce (in Japanese)


DoCoMo, inventor of the “i-mode”


Details of the “e-Japan strategy”


The Asian edition of Zdnet




POPULATION: 5,051,000



The Internet is a part of everyday life for Jordanians living in the capital and

major towns.A street in the northern city of Irbid even tried in January 2001

to get into the Guinness Book of Records for having 105 cybercafés along a

stretch of less than a kilometre.

Until 2001, Internet access was unrestricted and unmonitored but things have

changed sharply since then. Fear of seeing the second Palestinian Intifada

“contaminate” the kingdom, together with fallout from the 11 September attacks,

led the authorities to warn people against any attempt to challenge the country’s

security and stability.

In early October 2001, curbs on the media, including the Internet, were introduced,

providing for temporary or permanent closure of newspapers if they published what

was termed libellous or false news that harmed national unity or the image of the

state or encouraged strikes or illegal gatherings that disturbed public order.Penalties

for insulting the king and queen or the crown prince were increased. Offenders

became liable to prison sentences of between one and three years instead of just

fines. The law said electronic material would be treated the same way as any other

written material.

In December 2001, the king set up a Higher Media Council to reform the country’s

media policy and an attack on the Internet soon followed. Former TV journalist

Toujan el-Faisal, who was Jordan’s first female member of parliament,was sentenced

to 18 months in prison on 16 May 2002 by the state security court for publishing false

information abroad harming the image of the state and its officials.

In an open letter posted on the website of the Houston (Texas)-based Arab Times

( on 6 March that year, she had claimed prime minister Ali Abu

Ragheb profited financially from a government decision to double vehicle insurance

rates. El-Faisal was also accused of insulting the country’s judiciary in an interview

with the Qatari TV station Al-Jazeera in which she denounced the corruption of

Jordan’s courts.


The court’s presiding judge said she had made statements and published articles to

stir up unrest in Jordan. She was pardoned by the king on 26 June 2002.



The English-language daily Jordan Times


The official news agency Petra


Al Mashreq Al I’lami, independent newspaper specialising in media affairs (in



Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists (in Arabic)




POPULATION: 16,095,000



The online opposition media is perhaps the liveliest in Central Asia but the

government intelligence service monitors ISPs and access to opposition

websites is frequently blocked.

Kazakh law treats websites the same as the written media and they are not

therefore required to register with the authorities. The government set up a

state body in 1999 to monitor all telecommunications networks. ISPs have to

register with it and their lines are tapped by intelligence officials. Opposition

websites are blocked by most ISPs, a consequence of the battle between the government

and the independent media. To get round this, Internet users can use

foreign-based proxy sites, though this takes longer.

Since it was created in September 2001, the website, which is close to the

opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan party, has received anonymous threats

from people warning it not to post anything about President Nursultan Nazarbayev,

who is being legally investigated from abroad for embezzlement of state funds.

Access to the site was blocked by the ISPs Kazakhtelecom, Nursat and Arna-Sprint

during the first quarter of 2002.

Sergei Duvanov, who wrote an article that appeared online on 6 May 2002 criticising

the president for fraud, was interrogated by secret service agents and is being prosecuted

for “harming the honour and dignity”of the president.He was severely beaten

by thugs on 28 August and the next day, Kub, which had published his article, was

blocked. He was sentenced on appeal on 11 March 2003 to three and half years in

prison for alleged rape of an under-age girl.The many irregularities that marred the

investigation and trial, as well the harassment Duvanov was subjected to, suggest the

prosecution was politically inspired.

Access to the Respublika site was blocked by Kazakhtelecom and Nursat between

March and May 2002 and several other times during the year. The site contained

news about the legal action being taken against the two main leaders of Democratic

Choice of Kazakhstan.


The independent online newspaper Navigator was unavailable from 20 May 2002 for

supposed technical and administrative reasons after it posted an interview with the

former state prosecutor of Geneva, Bernard Bertossa, who confirmed that top

Kazakh officials, including President Nazarbayev, had Swiss bank accounts.

Access to, the official website of Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan

leader Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence, was

blocked by Nursat in several parts of the country on 4 September 2002.

Experts called in by Yuri Mizinov, editor of the online newspaper Navigator, reported

in April 2003 that the country’s main ISP, the state-owned Kazakhtelecom, had

blocked access to the website.



Kazakh service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


The news site Eurasianet


The International Foundation for the Protection of Freedom of Speech “Adil Soz”


Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law


The news site Kub




POPULATION: 31,293,000



The Internet has been available since 1995, earlier than in most other African

countries, and is not regulated. The number of users, mostly from the educated

and upper classes, increases greatly every year. Despite there being no

Internet law, the government, which has tense relations with the media, watches

online activity closely. In late August and early September 2001, police searched

two cybercafés in Nairobi and arrested several foreigners who were accused of

distributing secret defence documents.



“The future of the Internet in Kenya,” article in the regional daily The East African




POPULATION: 1,971,000



Kuwait has plenty of cybercafés (more than 300) and many people have home

connections, but the country is still under the influence of Islamic fundamentalists,

who are suspicious of the Internet.

A hardline Islamist member of parliament called at the end of December 2000 for

censorship and for ISPs to block access to sites with pornographic or “immoral”

material. In May 2002, the government closed about 50 cybercafés as part of an antipornography

drive and their operating permits were suspended by the communications


Inspections were begun after reports or complaints that some cybercafés had

allowed customers to log on to pornographic sites.The ministry said new rules would

be introduced to clamp down on such activity and that the closed cybercafés would

not be allowed to reopen until then. However, they have since reopened and the new

rules are being hotly debated, mostly under pressure from Islamist MPs.



News site


The English-language daily Kuwait Times


The official Kuwait News Agency


The Arab-language daily Al-Watan


News about countries of the Gulf (in Arabic).





POPULATION: 5,403,000



The regime does not allow a free media or permit new information technology

to be used to spread democracy.

Since the country went online in 1996, the government has controlled the ISPs and

Internet use has grown only slowly. Connection time is expensive and Laotians

are afraid to use a media they know the government and its agencies closely monitor.

There are only about 50 cybercafés in the capital,Vientiane, and Laotians mainly use

the Internet just to send and receive e-mail.They can only access websites approved

by the government, which has blocked the opposition site Vientianetimes, based in

the United States and a major irritant for the regime (and not to be confused with the

site of the same name set up the government).Anyone who tries to reach the site gets

a message back warning that the attempt has been “recorded.”

The government set up an Internet Committee of Lao in 2000, which includes three

ministries – information and culture, posts and telecommunications and transport

and science – and has drawn up rules for Internet users, banning online publication

by Laotians at home or abroad of any material likely to “harm national unity.”

The official news agency KPL said in October 2000 that people who used the Internet

in “the wrong way”by lying or getting people to protest against the government could

be prosecuted or deported. The country’s main ISP, Lao Telecommunications, says a

journalist can publish material if he has permission from the Internet Committee

and the appropriate ministry.

E-mail is also tampered with and many people complain that messages do not reach

their intended recipients in Laos. When then do, the authorities may have changed

the content, since Laotians must provide their passwords when they open an account

with a Laotian ISP.


• The ISP Lao Telecommunications

• Dissident news site (based in the US)



POPULATION: 3,108,000



After years of devastating civil war, Liberia is trying to rebuild its basic infrastructure.

The Internet is not a priority at all and facilities hardly exist.

This does not stop President Charles Taylor from attacking the Internet in the same

way he attacks the opposition press. He charges that exiled opposition journalists

putting out news about the situation in Liberia are waging a “war” against him on the


The country’s lone ISP, Data Tech, is accused of cutting off access when websites run

by Liberians abroad contain too much anti-government material. The government

launched a website in 2001 called to counter these diaspora sites.



Government news site


Opposition news site





POPULATION: 22,633,000




Malaysia has invested enormously in the Internet and new technology to

boost its economy, but the government harasses the independent online

media and exerts heavy pressure on opposition websites.

Like all the big countries of Southeast Asia, Malaysia has enthusiastically

embraced new information technology and the Internet. To counter the

decline of the traditional economy, prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (in power

since 1981) announced plans in 1996 for a Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) as

the core of a technology-based industrial revolution. He promised to protect the

rights of users of the Internet and not censor it.

The MSC is a 50 km corridor 15 kms wide that will surround the new Kuala Lumpur

international airport and new national capital of Putra Jaya. The government wants

to attract major offices and research labs of large transnational computer and multimedia


Harassment of the online daily Malaysiakini

The government may believe in the economic benefits of the Internet, but it is afraid

the new media will destroy its tight control of the country’s media. After promising

not to censor the Internet, the government targeted the only independent and critical

online daily newspaper, Malaysiakini. Its journalists cannot get official press

cards and the government regularly challenges the stories on the paper’s website and

accuses it of wanting to damage the regime’s credibility. Such verbal intimidation has

proved ineffective and reporters have been individually harassed.

Malaysiakini journalists were allowed by parliamentary security officials on

3 April 2002 to attend sessions of parliament provided they did not ask questions at

press conferences or approach MPs of the ruling UMNO party. A security officer said

the professional status of the Malaysiakini journalists was unclear. The information

ministry had refused to accredit them for two years. Two other news websites,

Radiqradio and Agendadaily, were also refused accreditation.


In October 2002, Malaysiakini, which says it gets 100,000 visitors a day, was forced to

introduce paying access for want of advertising revenue, according to editor Stephen

Gan. The many verbal attacks by the authorities, especially the prime minister, have

discouraged many local and foreign investors from advertising on the independent sites.

Police seized about 20 computers and a number of files in a raid on Malaysiakini’s

offices on 20 January 2003 in response to a complaint filed by UMNO’s youth wing for

“sedition” and “incitement to racial hatred.” Gan said it was an attempt to close the

site down.The authorities demanded to know who had posted an anonymous article

on the site on 9 January criticising the government’s granting of special rights to the

country’s ethnic Malay majority and comparing the UMNO to the racist American Ku

Klux Klan. Gan refused as a matter of journalistic principle to say who had written it.

The site was ordered on 22 January to leave its offices before the end of February by

its landlord, the firm PC Suria, which is owned by the government-controlled body

NASCOM. Gan denounced this as a new bid to close down the site by government

pressure on PC Suria. Malaysiakini’s chief executive, Premesh Chandran, said

finding new offices cost about 100,000 ringgits (26,000 euros) and disrupt its activities

for at least two weeks. “It will also mean a loss in subscription revenue and a loss of

confidence among our readers and subscribers,” he said.

The staff said on 5 February they would defy the eviction order, noting that the lease

did not expire until December 2004. Gan wrote to PC Suria’s lawyer saying they

would not leave because they had not violated any terms of the lease.As a result of

local and foreign protests, pressure on Malaysiakini then subsided.

The opposition, which uses the Internet as a public platform, is also regularly

harassed. In March 2001, the computers of the opposition National Justice Party’s

website were seized. Police searched the home of the site’s editor, Raja Petra

Kamaruddin, saying the site contained “seditious” material. The party has since

transferred it to a host outside the country.

Cyber-journalist in prison

One of Malaysiakini’s journalists, Hishamuddin Rais (also a documentary filmmaker),

and five other dissidents, all of them arrested in April 2001 and jailed without

trial for two years for “attempting to overthrow the government,” began a hunger

strike on 10 April 2002 to protest against their imprisonment under the Internal

Security Act in Kamunting prison, at Taiping, in the northern state of Perak.

Rais and one of the other five, Badrulamin Bahron were taken on 16 April to the

prison hospital, where they still refused to eat and were put on a drip. After eight

days without food, they had won support from human rights activists, regime opponents

and jailed former vice-premier Anwar Ibrahim, who also went on hunger

strike for several days in solidarity. The state-run or pro-government media did not

report their protest, which they halted after 11 days.


Rules for website content being drawn up

The energy, communications and multimedia ministry announced on 30 May 2001

that a National Internet Advisory Committee would be set up to coordinate and

supervise Internet use and draw up laws to regulate it.

The same day, the ministry’s parliamentary secretary, Chia Kwang Chye, said that in

the absence of laws applying specifically to the Internet, its users must obey the

Communication and Multimedia Act, which allows anyone who puts false or defamatory

information on the Internet to be jailed for up to a year and heavily fined.

After strong pressure from online publications and the political opposition, the government

announced in March 2002 it was dropping plans to regulate the Internet.

However, a month earlier, Malaysiakini editor Gan said the government was keen to

introduce rules about what could be put online and that the ministry was drafting a

reform of the government’s licensing system. Gan said the aim was clearly to weed

out any opposition material or criticism of the government.



The online daily Malaysiakini


The human rights organisation Aliran


The opposition Democratic Action Party


The Communications and Multimedia Commission


Ministry of energy, communications and multimedia



Population: 300,000

Internet users: 15,000

Privately-owned ISPs: no

Internet Users and cyber-dissidents in prison: 4

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has ruled since 1978, refuses to

allow his critics to use the Internet to oppose him. He made this brutally

clear in 2002 when he had the editors of an e-mailed newsletter jailed for

life. Meanwhile his government pushes an image of the country as a paradise

through many tourism websites.

Freedom of expression, especially on the Internet, is restricted by several laws.

One passed in 1968 bans speeches and articles that are against Islam, harmful

to national security or insulting. However, at least two privately-owned newspapers

criticise the government.

Mohamed Nasheed, an independent journalist and opposition member of parliament,

was arrested on 8 October 2001 after posting several articles online. He had

also signed a petition in February that year asking for permission to start an opposition

party. After being held secretly for a month in the capital, Malé, he was

sentenced at hasty trial to be banished for two and a half years to the remote island

of Raa for alleged theft.The High Court confirmed the sentence on 13 March 2002 at

a hearing without his lawyer present. It decided not to send him to prison but put him

under house arrest in Malé and bar him from parliament.

In January 2002, businessmen Mohamed Zaki, Ibrahim Luthfee and Ahmad Didi,

along with Luthfee’s assistant, Fathimath Nisreen, were arrested for distributing

anti-government articles in their e-mailed newsletter Sandhaanu. The Divehilanguage

publication contained no call to violence, according to Amnesty

International. They were held in secret for two weeks in Malé and then transferred

to a detention centre on Dhoonodhoo island.

In May, they were charged with defamation and allegedly trying to overthrow the

government by what they published in Sandhaanu. They were refused the right to

consult lawyers or receive family visits. In June, they were transferred to Mafushi

island and put in small cells. On 7 July, the three businessmen were sentenced to life

imprisonment. Nisreen, aged 21, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for allegedly



expressing dissatisfaction with government policies and supporting the authors of

the website articles. The authorities refused to allow appeals.

During the trial, Luthfee (37) and Didi (50) admitted writing Sandhaanu and said

Zaki (50), who lives in Malaysia,was in charge of e-mailing it to people who asked for

it. Luthfee told the court he was ready to provide proof of all the things he accused

President Gayoom of.

They are still being held on Mafushi island in poor conditions among drug offenders

and thieves. Their cells have little air and they have only five litres of water a day to

drink and wash in.Their families are only allowed to visit them once a month.



Foreign-based news site


The daily paper Haveeru


Opposition human rights site


Office of the presidency


The country’s only ISP



POPULATION: 2,747,000



The country went online in 1997, but most people use cybercafés, since the

high cost of computers, ISP subscriptions (about 30 euros a month) and connections

discourage logging on to the Internet from home.

Despite its small audience, the authorities have already circumscribed the Internet,

with most privately-owned ISPs in the hands of pro-government businessmen.

Cybercafé owners are obliged, if asked by state security officials, to submit copies of

e-mail messages received or sent from their premises.



Human rights in North Africa





POPULATION: 30,430,000



Until 2001, the Internet in Morocco was one of the freest in North Africa, with

no curbs or blocking of sites such as those close to the Polisario Front.There

are no laws about the Internet.

The Moroccan media uses the Internet to get round censorship. In December 2000,

three weeklies were shut down for reporting a scandal involving the then prime minister,

Abderrahmane Youssoufi. The three editors responded by posting the offending

articles on the Internet,mainly on French websites.

Access to the site of the weekly Rissalat al-Foutouwa, run by the student section of

the Islamist group Al-Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Spirituality), was blocked by the

authorities in April 2001 but restored in 2002.



Human rights in North Africa



POPULATION: 18,644,000



The Internet is steadily growing despite the country’s poor phone lines.The

killers of journalist Carlos Cardoso, editor of the daily paper Metical, which

was distributed only by e-mail or fax, were given prison sentences in 2003.

The Internet is catching on among Mozambicans but most people still use

cybercafés to log on to it. The main towns have good Internet facilities and

websites are not under threat of closure, censorship or monitoring. In fact the

government is trying to expand Internet use and has set up a commission on

computer technology policy under prime minister Pascoal Mocumbi.

The government does not politically harass Internet users or the rest of the media.

However, the good record has been married by one serious episode – the murder on

22 November 2000 of Carlos Cardoso, publisher of the online newspaper Metical,

which was only distributed by e-mail and fax.

He was killed driving home from his office through the centre of the capital, Maputo,

by two gunmen who blocked the way and opened fire, killing him at once and

seriously wounding his driver. Cardoso had been investigating the disappearance of

144 billion meticais (just over 7 million euros) from the Mozambique Commercial

Bank (BCM). Metical had followed the scandal closely and expressed surprise at the

lack of any enquiry. It had also mentioned the names of three powerful local businessmen,

the Satar brothers and Vicente Ramaya.

On 28 February the following year, the interior minister announced the arrest of

several suspects in the case and a few days later arrested Momade Abdul and Ayob

Abdul Satar, as well as Vicente Ramaya, who had been the head of the BCM’s Maputo

office.At the end of May, six people had been charged in the case.

On the night of 1 September 2002, one of the six suspects, Anibal Antonio dos Santos

Jr. (“Anibalzinho”) escaped from Maputo’s top security prison. The police gave no

immediate explanation, but there had been recent public concern about the disorganised

prison system. In August, Momade Abdul Satar, one of the alleged organisers of

the killing,was put in solitary confinement after he was found to have a mobile phone.



On 3 September, three senior police officials working at the prison were arrested.

The official version of Anibalzinho’s escape was that he had walked out through the

door of his cell. But this had three locks on it, to which only the police had keys.A few

days later, eight more police officers were arrested.

The pro-government weekly Domingo called on 8 September for interior minister

Almerino Manhenje to resign and at the end of the month, the independent weekly

Mediafax accused him of being involved in the escape, saying he had direct control

over the prison’s security.

Two years after the murder, on 18 November, the trial of five of Cardoso’s alleged

killers began in a special courtroom inside Maputo prison (to guard against incidents)

and the judge,Augusto Paulino,was given special protection. Journalists were

allowed to attend the hearings.

The next day, one of the defendants, Manuel Fernandes, accused Nyimpine Chissano,

son of President Joaquim Chissano, of having organised the murder. The president

announced that justice had to be done and that the trial must continue even if his

son’s name had been mentioned.Another defendant,Momade Abdul Satar, said on 20

November that on Nyimpine Chissano’s orders, he had paid Anibalzinho to kill

Cardoso. On 25 November, the suspected triggerman, Rashid Cassamo, also accused

the president’s son of being the brains behind the murder.

The younger Chissano was summoned on 5 December and denied to the court he

was involved.The six defendants were sentenced on 31 January 2003 to jail terms of

between 23 and 28 years.The chief state prosecutor said Chissano’s possible involvement

in the murder was being investigated.



Commission on Computer Technology Policy (in Portuguese)


The online daily Metical (in Portuguese, by subscription)


The independent weekly Mediafax


New Zealand

POPULATION: 3,808,000



The government has given itself legal authority to inspect computers and

monitor private e-mail as part of a fight against crime and terrorism.

The government announced in March 2001 a plan to fight cybercrime that it

said would also protect people’s privacy better. But the country’s Privacy

Commissioner, Bruce Slane, immediately denounced it as allowing police to hack

into private computers and look at people’s e-mails armed with a simple search

warrant. This was insufficient for something as serious as secret investigations

and spying on citizens, he said. Associate minister of justice Paul Swain said police

and intelligence agents needed such powers to fight crime and terrorism conducted

through the Internet.

In July that year, the Green Party strongly denounced the bill and criticised the

government’s law and order committee for ignoring people’s concerns about police

spying on their private e-mail, especially as the police had not made a case for

needing to do so.

In the wake of the 11 September attacks, the government announced measures to

step up monitoring of private computers and Internet traffic. One, announced

in December 2001, required all computer and Internet users to cooperate with

police investigations and ISPs to work closely with police, the Government

Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Security Intelligence Service

(SIS). In March 2002, the government allotted 1.5 million euros for phone-tapping

and e-mail monitoring. Another law obliged phone companies and ISPs to install

equipment to intercept their customers’ calls.

In November 2002, the government moved to boost the powers of the police, the

GCSB and the SIS to monitor e-mail. The Telecommunications (Interception

Capability) Bill proposed that Internet operators be required to install equipment to

monitor and intercept encrypted messages. The bill, drawn up after a report by the

Law Reform Commission, provided for fines of up to 25,000 euros for failing to do so.

Once again, civil liberties organisations, the Green Party (notably MP Keith Locke)

and some Internet operators attacked the serious implications of the measure for



privacy of electronic communications.The bill had still not been passed in April 2003.

All these government efforts aimed to force Internet operators, especially ISPs, to

monitor e-mail messages if need be. Such measures give the police and intelligence

services powers that broadly escape scrutiny by the courts or parliament.

Using the Echelon electronic surveillance system

In June 2001, the media reported that New Zealand was part of the US Echelon

spy-network to monitor electronic communications. New Zealand journalist Nicky

Hager, an expert on Echelon, told the Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun that the US

National Security Council, the spy agency that runs Echelon, was used until the late

1980s to conduct US industrial espionage against Japan,watching the role the world’s

second biggest economy was playing in the South Pacific.

He said the GCSB spied on Japan until 1989 from its base in Wellington and helped

analyse data about it from other Echelon network posts. In the early 1990s, the GCSB

expanded and set up another base at Waihopai, near Blenheim. An advanced information-

gathering system monitored the electronic traffic of Japanese embassies and

consulates, including confidential information about trade negotiations, fishing, coal

price talks, support for developing countries and immigration matters.



The Internet Society of New Zealand


The Government Communications Security Bureau


The Electronic Frontier Foundation


Information about the anti-terrorism law


Site of the Privacy Commissioner


The daily New Zealand Herald


North Korea

POPULATION: 22,428,000



The Internet officially does not exist in the world’s most isolated country, but a

handful of privileged people are allowed to go online through the phone

system or via satellite. The regime also uses the Internet for its own foreign communications

and in early 2002 even set up a website (Arirang) to attract tourists.

China hosts the official DPRKorea Infobank site (in Korean, English, Japanese and

Chinese), that describes the delights of the North Korea. A dozen other official sites,

including the government’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), are hosted in Japan

or China. The KCNA site contains descriptions and articles about the “Dear Leader”

Kim Jong-il and happy peasants and workers. There is no mention of the country’s

famine situation.

A North Korean scientific magazine, The World of Science, printed a diagram in 2000

showing a plan to instal filters between the Internet and the country’s Intranet to

control material passing between the two.

This ambiguous attitude to the Internet is denounced by human rights organisations

using the Web to fight the repressive regime. One of the most active is the Citizens’

Alliance for North Korean Human Rights,which is based in South Korea and heavily

involved in helping those who manage to escape from the country via China or

Russia. Its site contains many reports on the situation.



The Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights


A government site to promote tourism


The government news agency KCNA





POPULATION: 2,622,000



Although it denies it, the government monitors the content of websites through

its General Telecommunications Organisation (GTO), the country’s sole ISP,

founded in 1997. The GTO bars access to a large number of sites, especially

foreign ones, that are considered morally offensive to Islam, so as to protect

Omanis from supposed contamination by Western ideas.The government uses the

Internet however to put out official information, mainly via the website of the

official Omani News Agency (ONA).



News site


News about countries of the Gulf (in Arabic)



POPULATION: 141,971,000



The Internet is not yet widespread and is still mainly accessed through

cybercafés. It does not seem to be especially censored. But the Daniel Pearl

kidnapping and murder case showed how it could be used by extremists.

The military regime has made every effort to block access to a US-based

investigative journalism website.

With only a half a million Internet users, Pakistan is quite behind with new

information technology. This is mainly because of the country’s large size

and low level of economic development, including only a few million private

phone lines, mostly in big cities.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s government appears to favour its growth, even though on

the day he seized power, 12 October 1999, the army cut off all Internet connections

for several hours, and in July 2002, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority

(PTA) tried to force cybercafés owners to record the names of their customers.

Gen. Musharraf says his government has invested more than 100 million euros in

communications and sharply reduced the cost of connections and services since

1999. Pakistan has since launched a programme to boost digital technology, the

Information Technology and Telecom Policy.

Slow and difficult development

This policy has led the government to cut Internet connection costs and invest in

telecommunications infrastructure, while putting the Internet under the direct

supervision of the PTA. The state’s monopoly in the sector ended in December 2001

but big Internet operators such as AOL are reluctant to invest in a country where

scant profits are to be made.

For the time being,Pakistanis are enthusiastically using cybercafés, which are everywhere

in the cities. In Peshawar, a new one opens nearly every day.



Use of the Internet during the Pearl case

The Daniel Pearl murder showed how the Internet can exacerbate rising tensions in

Pakistan.The Musharraf government supported the Taliban in Afghanistan until the

11 September attacks and has to cope with Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan itself.

The Internet can also be used by these extremists to their advantage.The kidnapping

of Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl on 23 January 2002 and his murder by a

Pakistani fundamentalist group was an example. The kidnappers made great use of

the Internet, logging on with their personal computers and in cybercafés to announce

the kidnapping, put out political statements and generally publicise their crime.

The case could perhaps hamper growth of the Internet in Pakistan. The US government

regularly complains about how Al-Qaeda militants use the Internet, often from

Pakistan, to put out their messages, organise themselves and launch operations.

In January 2003, the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) was put in charge of fighting

cybercrime and cyber-terrorism and with US money and staff support, the government

set up a system of surveillance of the Internet. Until then, Pakistan police had

only three officers trained in combating cybercrime. The authorities have not said

whether the FIA will monitor e-mail messages.

Military regime targets South Asia Tribune

The information ministry indicated in a special announcement on 2 November 2002

that newspapers reproducing articles from the Washington-based South Asia

Tribune website ( could be prosecuted under a new libel law that

came into effect a month earlier and provides for up to three months in jail, a fine of

about 50,000 rupees (850 euros) and an obligatory public apology by those found


The South Asia Tribune was founded in July 2002 by Shaheen Sebhai, a former

senior editor of the daily The News, who has been exiled in the United States since

March 2002.The website has reported several corruption and human rights scandals

involving the government and gets about 100,000 visitors a month. Pakistani papers

have also reprinted material from it.The information ministry announcement did not

mention Sebhai or his website by name, simply referring to a Pakistani journalist it

said had gone into voluntary exile and launched a campaign to defame the government

and its officials.

Since he has been in exile, Sebhai has been targeted by the government. An army

employee filed a complaint against him for a burglary supposedly committed in

February 2001 and several of his friends were arrested and held several weeks in

Islamabad in connection with it. Journalist colleagues have been threatened by intelligence

agents for publicly defending him.


Attempts to control the Internet

The South Asia Tribune site reported in November 2002 that the PTA had in July that

year ordered ISPs and cybercafé owners to keep a record of the names, connection

times, numbers called and computer identities of their customers. Senior PTA official

Col. Nayyar Hassan said the order to ISPs to keep this data for a month was justified

by the rise in cybercrime. Cybercafé owners were required to keep such records for

two weeks.The South Asia Tribune said the PTA had issued a reminder in August that

the data should collected and kept. However, Col. Hassan himself admitted the order

was being disregarded.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTCL) announced on 2 April 2003 that

400 new sites with “indecent” content had been added to an earlier list of 100 banned

websites and asked Internet operators to block access to them. ISPs said the move

would slow down Internet access. A senior PTCL official, Zahir Khan, said on 6 April

that access to nearly 1,800 pornographic sites had been banned and that the PTCL

was thinking of importing software to make it easier to do.Also targeted were “anti-

Islamic” and “blasphemous”sites.The PTCL admitted the blocking would temporarily

slow down Internet navigation but said it was necessary because of what it called the

great threat to society from such sites. Mairajul Huda, a leader of the Islamist Jamaate-

Islami party,welcomed the moves and said the electronic media had to be reformed

to bring them into line with the country’s culture and religion so young people would

not be tempted by such evil.

Cyberwar between India and Pakistan

The Pakistani government set up a special interministerial committee in May 2003 to

counter increasing attacks on government websites by Indian hackers who were

making them inaccessible. Information technology minister Awais Ahmad Khan

Leghari said that if the attackers were identified, the government would take the

matter to the relevant international authorities to seek their punishment.The previous

month, he had said the government was thinking of hiring its own hackers to

fight the attacks.The daily paper The News said the government’s working group on

Internet security was responsible for protecting the country’s cyber-security.


• US-based South Asia Tribune

• The country’s main ISP

• Pakistan Press Foundation

• major daily Dawn The Daily Times




POPULATION: 77,130,000



Growth of the Internet has been helped by a general atmosphere of freedom

of expression, but the fight against separatist organisations, officially called

“terrorists,” has been used to justify laws authorising surveillance of the


The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world that has laws covering

10 different sorts of cybercrime, divided into crimes involving data (interception,

alteration and theft), the Internet (interference and sabotage), access (hacking

and spreading viruses) and crimes planned with others (cyber-criminals,

fraud and forgery).

But the government does not filter or block access to websites, which can be set up

without any official procedures. However, non-government attempts have been

made to control site content, especially pornography.

The national Catholic Bishops Conference (CBCP) launched its own ISP,, in April 2000, equipped with a firewall blocking access to pornographic

sites, which it said would make it safe for children.

In June 2001, a bill (471) to protect students from the Internet was presented to

Congress, requiring libraries in all schools and educational institutions to install filters

to block access to obscene or violent sites.

Anti-terrorism and threats to privacy and security

Proposed new anti-terrorist measures, especially article 10 of House Bill 3802,

drafted in the wake of the 11 September attacks would give the government a free

hand to secretly tap any phone, cable or other means of transmitting any kind of written

or oral messages, including conversations, discussions, news or data and to

secretly record them. The measure clearly covers the Internet and e-mail messages.

The definition of terrorism in these measures is also sufficiently vague to allow it to

be applied to all kinds of lawful critics of the government. The national constitution

emphasises freedom of expression but the proposed laws, at a time when the


government is fighting Muslim separatists on Mindanao island, is a warning to

groups that strongly oppose the government.

Some clauses of Bill 3802 seek to protect against abuses in its application, but human

rights activists still fear these safeguards will be easily got round. In May 2002, a

group led by Congresswoman Liza Maza called it the “mother of all repressive laws.”

Others see the anti-terrorist measures as restoration of former dictator Ferdinand

Marcos’ anti-subversion law, which he used to crack down on his opponents.



Article on the anti-terrorist measures


About freedom of expression in the Philippines


The newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer


Amnesty International’s archives on human rights in the Philippines




POPULATION: 144,664,000



The Internet has become very popular for putting out news, but dissidents’

online freedom of expression has been undermined by anti-terrorist laws.

The lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, approved a law in late

June 2002 at President Vladimir Putin’s request to ban “all forms of extremist

activity” on the Internet. The new law aroused fears among online freedom advocates

of more power for the police. Putin’s political opponents feared it would be

used to target minority parties, which could be prosecuted and their websites shut

down if they were accused by the authorities of encouraging or supporting

extremism on the Internet.

“Russia does have extremists and nationalists, but their eradication is not this law’s

real purpose,” said Sergei Kovalyov, a Union of Right Forces (SPS) member of the

Duma.“It allows online activity to be banned for no good reason.”He was also concerned

about the law’s provision to allow punishment to be based on criminal legislation.

But the heaviest criticism was of the 11 categories of extremist activity, which drew

on laws against terrorism, attempts to overthrow the government and inciting people

to riot or racial hatred. The law also banned any activity or publication threatening

the country’s “security.” Freedom of expression and human rights campaigners say

this too-broad definition of extremism will threaten perfectly legitimate activity, such

a websites that oppose the war in Chechnya.

The information ministry threatened in late October 2002 to shut down the website

of the radio station Ekho Moskvy for broadcasting an interview with Chechen guerrillas

holding several hundred people hostage in a Moscow theatre. The mass kidnapping

gave the government a chance to propose an anti-terrorist law that allows

the authorities to prosecute any journalist reporting on matters related to terrorism

or the war in Chechnya. At the last minute, Putin vetoed the bill and asked parliament

to revise it.

Access to Chechen news sites is systematically blocked. They included,

cut off by the FSB (ex-KGB) on 5 November 2002. In early December, Dmitri


Chepchugov, head of the interior ministry’s anti-cybercrime department, said all

websites connected with Chechen rebels had been identified and that an undisclosed

number had been shut down. Even though they were based abroad, foreign ISPs had

barred access to them. Among them was kavkaztsenter site, based in Estonia, cut off

in late April 2003 after pressure from the Russian authorities.



The Glasnost Defence Foundation


Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


The human rights news agency Prima News



Saudi Arabia

POPULATION: 21,028,000



The government has only allowed general access to the Internet since 1999

because it had not until then installed effective censorship to monitor all

connections made and block access to websites considered “immoral.”

The firewall, which is housed in the King Abdulaziz City for Science and

Technology in Jeddah, officially bars the way to pornographic sites but in fact

censors all websites deemed to violate what the authorities call the social, cultural,

political, economic and religious principles of the state. Opposition sites,

such as that of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), cannot be

viewed, along with a large number of other sites of human rights groups or NGOs.

In early 2001, the authorities said they had blocked access to 200,000 sites. In April

that year, they announced they would block 200,000 more whose content was considered

“offensive to good morals.”At the same time, the country’s grand mufti called

on Internet users to boycott Yahoo! on grounds that it was “promoting pornography.”

There is no specific legislation dealing with the Internet, which is covered by the

press law.This requires official authorisation to start up any kind of media outlet.The

royal family also has the power to dismiss journalists and appoint the heads of newspapers

or other media. There is no freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia for either

the media or the Internet.

But getting round the restrictions seems increasingly popular. Internet users are

going through proxy servers more and more to connect to banned sites and also to

surf the Web anonymously.


• Saudi Center for Human Rights Studies

• Saudi Institute for Development and Studies, which

encourages the growth of civil society in the country

• News about countries of the Gulf (in Arabic)



POPULATION: 4,108,000



The city-state is one of the most wired countries in Asia, but the government

severely restricts Internet use by government opponents. The authorities

are also trying to impose “responsible” use of the Internet.

The Internet has been a resounding success in Singapore ever since the country

went online in 1995 and two-thirds of all households have a computer.

More than two million people are online, up from 800,000 in 1999. The number of

websites in the country’s .sg domain has risen from 900 in 1996 to more than

17,000 today.

But the government does not like being criticised and, even though it denies doing so,

quietly and effectively censors material. The Internet was placed in the late 1990s

under the supervision of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA), which controls

access to sites and requires them to obey rules for what it calls “responsible” use of

the Internet.

It asks ISPs to bar access to sites containing material that “undermines public security,

national defence, racial and religious harmony and public morality” and is

thought to have blocked more than 100 sites deemed to be pornographic. Sites that

do not comply with the SBA rules do not get an operating licence. They must also

install filters on their servers.

Political and religious websites must register with the government’s Media

Development Authority, which also requires ISPs to block access to about 100 sites

considered undesirable. Some Internet operators encourage customers to install

filters, especially CyberPatrol and Smart Filter, on their computers, mainly to block

pornographic sites.

The law was amended before parliamentary elections in 2001 to curb the activities of

political websites. Government opponents, journalists and other critics are hampered

by the internal security law, which allows the arrest of anyone undermining

the very general notion of “state security,” and by the heavy fines imposed in libel




In July 2002, a government opponent, Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, who has posted

articles online, fled to Australia after police searched his house and threatened to

arrest him. His computer was seized and he was accused of libelling the daughterin-

law of a government minister. He learned recently that if he returned to

Singapore he would face charges of sedition and threatening racial harmony and

could be jailed for two years.

The government set up a “Cyber Wellness Task Force” in March 2003 to teach

Singaporeans how to behave online. It aims to prevent the country’s millions of users

from sending “useless” e-mails and spam and not to look at pornographic sites or use

false names in discussion forums. Its head, Michael Yap, is planning information

campaigns, new websites and training workshops.



Southeast Asia’s freedom of expression organisation, Think Centre


Site of James Gomez, an expert on freedom of expression in Singapore


The Media Development Authority, the government’s Internet regulatory body



POPULATION: 9,157,000



The country has been online only since 1999 and is very behind in new information

technology. Just a few hundred people surf the Internet in the 40 or

so call-shops and Web-bars in the capital, Mogadishu. One reason is that Somalia

only has a total of 2,000 phone lines. The cost of calls fell in 2002 but is still very

high for one of Africa’s poorest countries.

A rare event in the history of the Internet happened in November 2001, when the

country was completely disconnected for two months, after the sole ISP, Somalia

Internet Company, and the main telecommunications firm, al-Barakaat, were forced

to close.They had been accused by the US government of funding Al-Qaeda and were

put on the US list of those supporting terrorism. In January 2002, a new ISP and

telecommunications company, NetXchange, began operations, filling the gap left by

the closed firms.



“Internet Returns to Mogadishu”, in, January 23, 2002




South Africa

POPULATION, 43,792,000



The country started off as the spearhead of the Internet in Africa but in

early June 2002, its parliament passed a controversial law to fight cyber-terrorism.

The law’s opponents also criticised the government for moving to

take over assignment of the country’s “.za” domain names.

The explosion of the Internet in South Africa delighted Internet fans all over

Africa. The country has far and away the most connections. It has been

online since the mid-1990s, with the big advantage that nearly all the continent’s

Internet traffic passes through its “backbones” (connection nodes enabling worldwide

routing of messages). This gives South Africa a solid technological infrastructure

to boost its own Internet growth.

The road to democratising the Internet began about two years ago and the fruits are

now visible. ISPs are flourishing and competition is fierce.The government is keen to

get all sectors of the population online as quickly as possible. This has not yet happened

but the steady growth in the number of Internet users is very promising.

What kind of monitoring of what networks?

Two events however clouded the picture in June 2002 – passage of a law to combat

cyber-terrorism and the government’s move to take over attribution of “.za” domain


Parliament passed the Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill with the

declared aim of protecting the country against cyber-terrorism. South Africa had

earlier signed the first international convention against cyber-crime in Budapest on

23 November 2001, along with 30 or so other countries (the United States, Canada,

Japan and members of the Council of Europe).

The new law was strongly criticised, especially by the Democratic Alliance party,

which voted against it, and by Internet freedom organisations and private firms.

The law allows telecommunications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri to appoint


inspectors to monitor telecommunications networks and their content, which they

are authorised to seize.

Private companies are worried about the government’s interference with e-commerce,

even though the minister told parliament she did not intend to monitor

traffic. Apart from economic interests, privacy and freedom of expression campaigners

fear a lack of openness by the inspectors and wonder which communications

networks they will monitor and what kind of data they will seek access to.

Resistance over domain names

The government’s decision to take over assignment of domain names has also sparked

controversy. Until the measure allowing this was passed, it was done by a users’

group called NameSpace ZA, run by Mike Lawrie. The government says this should

not be done by just one person working in the private sector.

Lawrie says the move is plain nationalisation and is unacceptable because the

degree of surveillance and control the government would have would threaten the

independence of the Internet in the country. He has refused to comply with the new

law and in June he switched some of his data and ISPs out of the country so as to

protect them, he said, even if it meant being prosecuted.



The Internet users’ group Namespace ZA


The South African ISP Association ISPA



South Korea

POPULATION: 47,069,000

INTERNET USERS: 26,270,000


The number of Internet users is soaring and the country has one of the

world’s biggest concentrations of high-speed connections, along with the

US. But the government still censors sites it considers objectionable.

The country has fully realised the importance of the Internet in opening up

and expanding the economy. In just three years, the number of people online

rose from three million to 26 million, largely because of the growth of high-speed

connections, whose quality is a big draw.

Black list of 120,000 sites

Despite being so widely used, the Internet is still regulated. South Korea was one of

the first countries in the world, in 1995, to pass a law about the distribution and viewing

of online material. The Information Communication Ethics Committee (ICEC)

monitors the content of websites and forums very closely and can recommend that

access to them be blocked.

The information and communication ministry called in July 2001 for access to be

barred to 120,000 sites it considered offensive. These included sites featuring

pornography, violence, information about computer hacking, spreading viruses,

cybercrime and euthanasia. The government asked for filters against them to be

installed on computers in cybercafés, schools and public libraries. ISPs faced prosecution

if they did not install them too. The reason given was to protect young people

from exposure to supposedly dangerous content.

This argument was rejected by Jinbonet, which campaigns for Internet freedom in

South Korea. It was just one more attack on the Internet, it said, after the government

was forced in 2000 to abandon an earlier proposal to introduce online censorship as

a result of a public uproar. Jinbonet said the ministry had experts working on ways to

block sites.

ICEC shut down the anti military service site non-serviam in May 2002 for two

months, on grounds that military service was an obligation for all Korean men and


that anti-militarist campaigns had drawn many complaints.The decision was taken

under article 53 of the 1995 law.

A month later, the country’s constitutional court struck down article 53, along with

article 16 providing for its application, after criticism by Jinbonet and the group

Lawyers for a Democratic Society. In November, parliament amended Article 53,

replacing the term “dangerous content”with “illegal content.”But the powers of ICEC

and the ministry to monitor and punish were upheld.

Political militant arrested

Kim Kang-pil, an activist of the far-left Democratic Labour Party, was arrested on 25

July 2002 for posting articles about North Korea on the party’s website. He was held

under article 7 of the national security law which severely punishes sympathisers of

the North Korean regime. He was accused of committing “an act advantageous to the

enemy”and sentenced to a year in prison and banned from voting for a year.After the

trial, an anti Internet censorship group said it clearly showed the government was

monitoring political and social websites and that there must be others reasons for the

sentence. Kim was freed on 3 December after an appeals court had suspended his


Gay website banned

A federation of 15 gay rights associations filed a suit against the government in

January 2002 for banning the country’s first website for homosexuals,

The group, the Lesbian and Gay Alliance Against Discrimination in Korea, pointed

out that the national constitution did not permit the government to interfere with

people’s sexual orientation and that banning the site was a violation of the guarantee

of freedom of expression, speech and the media.

A government committee on the protection of children, answering to the prime minister’s

office, had called the website pornographic and harmful to young people’s

morality. But a few months earlier, the committee had placed on the Internet the

uncensored details of the sexual offences committed against children under 13 by

about 60 named people, whose personal and professional details were also given.

High-speed connections help hackers

One result of the Internet’s success and the ease of connection through high-speed

access is that hackers are particularly active. A study in 2001 by consultants

Predictive Systems said a third of all hacking done outside the United States originated

in or passed through South Korea.

An example was the episode of a US spy-plane forced to land in China in May 2001,

which triggered furious activity by US and Chinese hackers, with South Korea as the

cyber-battlefield. More than 100 attacks were made on the websites of universities,


companies and research centres in South Korea, because the country has so many

connections with both countries. The hackers on both sides wanted to conceal their

identity so they hid behind South Korea rather than attack the “enemy” directly.

Election campaign online

The December 2002 presidential elections featured on an online battle between

animated websites set up by young journalists close to reformist candidate Roh

Moo-hyun and major newspapers such as the right-wing daily Chosun Ilbo. Roh’s

victory was helped by support from sites such as OhmyNews, which got 20 million

visitors a day during the campaign.The site’s founder, Oh Yeon-ho, said he had reproduced

online the equivalent of the pro-democracy street-fighting in the 1980s. The

site, based on a network of 23,000 “citizen-reporters” all over the country, had a scoop

when it exposed a scandal involving the Hyundai industrial group.



Jinbonet and the Progressive Network Center


Ministry of information and communication


The independent online paper OhmyNews



POPULATION: 39,921,000



The lower house of the Spanish parliament passed the LSSICE “Internet law,”

to fight cybercrime and terrorism via the Internet, on 27 June 2002. Devised

by the science and technology ministry, it obliges ISPs to retain traffic logs of their

customers for at least a year. An opposition amendment bars police or intelligence

officials from using such data without court permission.

But how such data retention will work in practice has not been spelled out and no

official body has been given authority to shut down websites considered to have

“undermined” a list of social values.

Freedom of expression is upheld in the Constitution, whose article 20 guarantees the

right to “freely send or receive truthful information by any medium of communication”

and whose article 18.3 protects confidentiality of postal, telegraphic and phone

messages “except when there is a court order.”This has led privacy campaigners and

prominent lawyers to denounce the new law as unconstitutional.



The national data protection agency




Sri Lanka

POPULATION: 19,104,000



Despite a variety of ISPs and the opening of more than 100 cybercafés in

major cities, the relatively few Internet users mostly just send and receive


Sri Lanka has no special Internet law and the telecommunications regulatory

body licences ISPs. Editors and webmasters must register their sites with the

Council for Information Technology (Cintec).The authorities can thus easily identify

them. But so far no sites have been censored.

Though slow to develop elsewhere in the society, the Internet does play a part in the

country’s political life.The 20-year rebellion of the separatist Tamil Tigers has spilled

over onto the Internet.

Dharmaratnam Sivaram, who runs the Tamilnet news site, was attacked by thugs at

his office on 26 December 2001, six months after being accused by the pro-government

media of being a Tamil Tiger spy. He needed six stitches in his head. Tamilnet

is the main source of news on the Web about the political and military situation in the

rebel areas.

The home of Senathirajah Jeyanandamoorthy, correspondent for the news website

Tamilnet and the Tamil daily Virakesari, in the eastern town of Batticaloa, was

attacked with grenades on the night of 7 January 2002. The attackers also tried to

burn down the house. The journalist and his family managed to escape.The Eastern

Journalists Association said he had received death threats, notably from Islamic

extremist groups. Jeyanandamoorthy had written about Islamic extremists operating

in the region.His articles about the Tamil Tigers also angered Sinhalese nationalists.

The Internet should expand in Sri Lanka now that a ceasefire has been signed (on 22

February 2002) between the army and the rebels, followed by peace talks in May.




Independent news site


The news site Tamilnet


Tamil Tigers site


The Council for Information Technology


The Sri Lankan army




POPULATION: 7,170,000



Article 322-b of the Criminal Code, which came into force on 1 April 1998, provides

for prosecution of anyone who, deliberately or carelessly, allows the

posting of illegal material. This is the system of responsibility by association that

also applies to the written media. So if the author cannot be found or cannot be

tried in a Swiss court, a website’s content can be blamed on the publisher, the

site’s host and even the ISP.

The federal law on monitoring postal and telecommunications traffic that came into

effect on 1 January 2002 requires ISPs to retain customers’ connection records for six

months and to hand them over to the monitoring authorities, by court order and if

possible in real time.

The federal police, in a written statement in spring 2000, said a site’s host had a duty

to check the legality of material in case there was a legal complaint. The police can

also ask an ISP to block access to a site and ask a host to either block or erase one, all

at their own expense and without compensation. The exact extent of these monitoring

obligations has so far only been discussed and no court has yet had a case testing

these rules.



Federal Data Protection Commissioner


Information technology law site


Swiss Internet User Group



POPULATION: 16,610,000



Syria is one of the countries most tightly monitoring the Internet. Access is

restricted to government bodies and a number of hand-picked companies.

The rest of the population can only go online at a few closely-watched government-

run cybercafés or at clandestine centres.

The government’s Syrian Telecommunications Establishment controls all access to

the Internet, blocking “offensive” content such as pornography and pro-Israeli

material.E-mail is monitored too and people can be sent to prison for sending unauthorised

messages to foreigners. When a person wants an Internet connection at

home, state technicians install the phone line and the access package and choose the

customer’s password themselves.



The Arabic-language government daily Teshreen, with link to the Englishlanguage

government paper Syria Times


News about Arab countries





POPULATION: 63,584,000



The Internet is supervised by the National Information Technology

Committee (NITC), the National Electronics and Computer Technology

Center (NECTEC), the Telephone Organisation of Thailand (TOT) and the

Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT). The rise of such bodies has hindered

Internet growth more than encouraged it. The CAT by law has a minimum

32 per cent share in all privately-owned ISPs.

The media, most of which have websites, do not complain about censorship, even

though relations between the independent media and populist prime minister

Thaksin Shinawatra are tense. But the NITC said in July 2001 it would hunt down

“unsuitable content” on the Internet. It ordered ISPs to retain connection data about

their customers for at least three months, so that undesirable websites could be spotted

and blocked and those who logged on to them could be prosecuted. The police

and technical and legal experts work closely with the NITC to monitor cybercafés as

well as the Internet to identify target sites.

Information and communication technology minister Surapong Suebwonglee said

on 19 December he had asked the country’s Internet operators, including a score of

ISPs, to block access to “obscene”or “subversive”websites.The daily paper The Nation

said he had defined “subversive” as endangering national security and the monarchy.

The minister said he wanted the Internet in Thailand to be “a pleasant place.”



The Communications Authority of Thailand


The Nation media group



POPULATION: 9,562,000




The government says it favours rapid and democratic growth of the

Internet. But in practice, state security police keep it under very tight control.

Sites are censored, e-mail intercepted, cybercafés monitored and users

arrested and arbitrarily imprisoned. One cyber-dissident was arrested in

2002 and sent to jail for two years.

The country has been online since the mid-1990s and the Internet is more

widespread than in the rest of North Africa because the government promotes

it as a major economic tool. It is administered by the Tunisian Internet

Agency (ATI), which is part of the telecommunications ministry.

Phone lines are good and the government has encouraged ISPs, of which there are

six state-owned and six privately-owned.The authorities have set up 300 cybercafés

(“publinets”) throughout the country and says all universities and secondary schools

and universities are on the Internet.

Press freedom does not exist in Tunisia, so people have taken wholesale to the

Internet to take part in it there. This is what journalist Sihem Bensedrine did when

she could not get permission to publish a newspaper and instead set up an online

magazine, Kalima. But President Zine el-Abidine ben Ali and his powerful police

apparatus are determined to stamp out all cyber-dissidence.

The Tunisian government runs one of the world’s most extensive Internet censorship

operations. The only ISPs allowed to serve the general public are those owned

by the president’s associates, including his daughter. The ATI ensures that the market

is tightly controlled by the authorities. ISPs must sign a contract saying they will

only allow customers to use the Internet for “scientific, technological and commercial

purposes strictly to do with their area of activity.”

Cyberspace in Tunisia has been regulated since 2001 by the press law, which

provides for censorship. Access to some news websites, such as Kalima and



TUNeZINE, but also those of NGOs and foreign media carrying criticism of the

government, is routinely blocked.

The powers of the “cyber-police”

The managers of the publinets have the right to check what sites their customers are

looking at and can force them to disconnect at any time. There is plenty of evidence

that cybercafés are closely watched by the police. Plainclothes officers regularly

collect details of Internet activity from the machines to check who has been looking

at what sites.

Control of telecommunications, including the Internet, was stepped up further

in 2002 and a full-scale corps of cyber-police went into operation to track down

“subversive” websites to be blocked, intercept e-mail or attempts to reach sites

containing “political or critical” material, hunt for and neutralise “proxy” servers used

to get round directly-blocked access to sites, and track down and arrest “over-active”

Internet users – the cyber-dissidents.

About 20 young men were arrested at their homes in the southern town of Zarzis on

5 February 2003. In April, seven of them, including a minor, were in prison in Tunis

for “delinquency, theft and obtaining material to make explosives” as a result of

consulting “terrorist” websites. Their lawyer, who visited them in jail, said they had

been tortured.

The daily paper La Presse reported on 22 April 2003 that the government had

stopped issuing permits to open privately-owned cybercafés and had said access to

the Internet would be limited to the government-controlled publinets.

“Ettounsi” sent to prison for two years

Zouhair Yahyaoui was arrested by plainclothes police on 4 June 2002 in Tunis, at a

computer centre where he worked. He was taken to his home, where they searched

his bedroom and seized his computer equipment.

During interrogation, he was tortured with three sessions of being made to hang by

his arms with feet off the ground.As a result of this, he gave them the password to his

website, which allowed the authorities to block access to it.

Yahyaoui, who used the pseudonym “Ettounsi” (“The Tunisian” in Arabic), founded

the website TUNeZINE in July 2001 to put out news about the fight for democracy

and freedom in the country and to publicise opposition material. He wrote many

columns and essays and was the first to publish an open letter that his uncle, Judge

Mokhtar Yahyaoui, had sent to President Ben Ali denouncing the Tunisian judiciary’s

lack of independence. The judge’s own website,, which his nephew also

ran, was destroyed.


TUNeZINE was censored by the authorities right from the start. But its fans each

week received a list of “proxy” servers through which they could access it.

He was sentenced by an appeals court on 10 July 2002 to a year in prison for “putting

out false news to give the impression there had been a criminal attack on persons or

property” (article 306-3 of the penal code) and another year for “theft by the fraudulent

use of a communications link,” meaning an Internet connection at a cybercafé

where he worked (article 84 of the communications code). He was jailed in very

harsh conditions and staged two hunger-strikes in early 2003 to protest against his




Online news magazine Kalima


Online news magazine TUNeZINE


Human rights in North Africa




POPULATION: 67,632,000



The government cracks down on the Internet as it does on the rest of the

media, censoring and prosecuting journalists who dare to criticise the state

and its institutions.

The Internet is growing fast in Turkey, with an estimated 700,000 people

connected from their homes. Other users go online from cybercafés which

are opening everywhere, especially in big towns and cities. The state-owned

Turkish Telekom, through its subsidiary TTnet, has cornered most of the market,

but privately-owned operators are growing without much difficulty.

However, before starting out, owners of cybercafés must promise in writing to block

all access to sites that promote separatism, Islamic fundamentalism or pornography,

and also get permission to open from the police, who have an “electronic brigade”that

strengthens surveillance of the Internet and electronic communications.The Ankara

police have a special Internet division, as do the country’s regions.

No national laws refer specifically to the Internet, but the May 2002 law on the

National Broadcasting Council (RTÜK) imposed severe restrictions on freedom of

expression on the Internet, with webpages requiring approval by the authorities

before being posted. Courts tend to treat Internet cases under the country’s very

repressive media laws.

On 6 December 2001, an Istanbul court ordered closure of, the

website of the political and cultural quarterly Idea Politika, which was being sued.

The judge used the press law as a reference. However, the verdict was not applied,

since the site is run from France. The magazine’s former editor, Erol Ozkoray, was

due to appear before the press court on 11 July 2003 for publishing an article on

11 September 2001 called “What’s the use of the army?”on the website. He is accused

of insulting the army and faces three years in prison.

On 12 March 2002, Coskun Ak, coordinator of interactivity at the firm Superonline,

was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for “insulting and making

fun of the state, the armed forces, the police and the judiciary.” He had left on the


firm’s website in May 1999 an item about human rights violations in southeastern

Turkey, which had been posted on the site’s forum by a participant.The sentence was

commuted to a fine. He was acquitted on 24 April 2003 by the Istanbul assize court,

which said there was insufficient evidence he was responsible for the item, which it

said contained “serious insults to state institutions.”



The magazine Idea Politika


The organisation Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties


The European Union




POPULATION: 4,835,000



President Separmurad Nyazov’s regime has total control of the media,

including the Internet, which barely exists in the country. The state-owned

Turkmen Telecom is the only ISP permitted. The website of the Prague-based

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is funded by the US Congress, is one of the

rare sources of independent news.



The Turkmen service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


The news site Eurasianet



POPULATION: 49,112,000



Although not yet very widespread, the Internet has proved a boon to investigative

journalists whose online publications are the only places they can

publish uncensored material. But these websites are under constant pressure

from the authorities.

Ukraine is rather behind where the Internet is concerned. The price of computers

and especially the cost of connections is too high for most people.

Continuing delay in privatising UkrNet, the government telecommunications firm,

is also an obstacle to the introduction of competition and thus much lower prices.

But bold journalists in this country under the iron hand of President Leonid Kuchma

have been using the Internet since the late 1990s to put out independent news. This

has come at a big price, as shown by the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze.

Progress in the Gongadze murder enquiry

Ukrainskaya Pravda was founded in spring 2000 as the first opposition newspaper

published only online. Its incisive articles soon made it popular with Ukrainians.“It’s

a way to be a free journalist that’s otherwise impossible in Ukraine,” said Gongadze,

its founder and editor. In the months before he vanished, he several times reported

he had been threatened. In July 2000, he even complained to the country’s prosecutor-

general, Mihailo Potebenko, about “deliberate intimidation” to frighten him and

stop him working.

On 2 November that year, his headless corpse was found near Tarashcha, 140 km

from Kiev. Revelations that top government officials were probably involved jolted

Kuchma’s regime. But the authorities vigorously blocked a search for the truth. The

prosecutor-general’s office and the interior ministry opposed any serious attempt to

investigate Gongadze’s disappearance and murder.

But investigations started making progress in 2002. On 19 July, the prosecutorgeneral

ordered a new analysis of tape recordings implicating Kuchma and agreed to

a new autopsy on Gongadze’s body with the help of European experts.



On 5 August, a new prosecutor-general, Svyatoslav Piskun, granted Reporters

Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard the right to legally represent the

civil parties in the case. On 3 September, Piskun admitted the law had been broken

during the enquiry, formally recognised the body as Gongadze’s and that he had been


On 10 September, Piskun said the public prosecutor in Tarashcha, where the body

had been found, had been charged with forging the initial statement about the body

and with not having tried to identify the body immediately. The Tarashcha police

investigator, Sergy Belinsky, was also charged with forgery.

On the second anniversary of Gongadze’s disappearance, on 16 September,

Reporters Without Borders asked for permission to re-examine, with an independent

expert of its choice, all the forensic tests done so far as well as related documents. It

also asked the prosecutor-general’s office to question four men who reportedly

followed Gongadze in the weeks before he vanished.

The same day, Gongadze’s widow Myroslava,with the help of the Damocles Network

and the Institute of Mass Information, filed a complaint with the European Court of

Human Rights, accusing the prosecutor’s office of obstructing investigations. In

October, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Ménard and a French pathologist

went through all the results of the previous forensic analyses.

An independent autopsy, at the request of Gongadze’s mother and arranged by

Reporters Without Borders, was done in January 2003 and formally identified the

body as that of Gongadze.The investigation, which should now focus on former interior

ministry officials, has not produced any further results.

Monitoring increases

In January 2001, an Internet department was set up in the State Information

Committee with the aim of “monitoring false news about Ukraine.”

On 28 February, a government decree put the State Centre for Information Security

under the secret police, the SBU, which thus gained control over the Internet.

On 1 June, an NGO was set up to administer websites using the national domain

name “.ua”. Among its founders, apart from the SBU, were several ISPs previously in

charge of running the domain but which had yielded control to the new body. The

NGO proposed a law on 12 November to step up monitoring of the Internet under the

guise of fighting terrorism, organised crime and pornography.

On 26 June, investigative journalist Oleg Yeltsov was summoned for questioning by

the SBU and accused of “violating state secrets” by posting on the website Ukraina

Kriminalna (Criminal Ukraine) an article describing the lifestyle of former secret

police chief Leonid Derkach and his son, a member of Ukraine’s oligarchy.Yeltsov’s

apartment was searched while he was away being questioned.


On 16 July, SBU chief Volodymir Radchenko told a press conference in Kiev that the

SBU wanted all Internet users to register with the authorities. He said this was so a

directory could be produced for users.

On 23 August,President Kuchma signed a decree about openness of telecommunications

in Ukraine that gave the government a month to spell out steps to improve state

regulation of the flow of information.

On 25 September, access to the website of the opposition newspaper Antenna in

Cherkassy was blocked. The previous day, the local militia had visited the paper’s

offices and offered “protection” for the website.

In December 2001, journalists of the online newspaper Forum were called in by the

SBU and accused of revealing state secrets on the website on 15 June that year in an

article reporting the results of an inspection of the state reserves office. Legal aid

from the Institute of Mass Information enabled the journalists to escape prosecution.

On 21 February 2002, the editors of the online political newspaper Obkom filed a

complaint against the national tax authority the day after its officials went the

paper’s offices to search them even though they only had a warrant to search a bank

on the floor below.Despite editor Sergy Sukhobok’s protests and presentation of various

legal documents allowing the site to operate, the officials seized computer

equipment and some of the archives.Although the tax authority said later the search

had been done “by accident,” the computers were never returned.



The freedom of expression body The Institute of Mass Information


The opposition paper Antenna


The online opposition paper Ukrainskaia Pravda



United Arab


POPULATION: 2,654,000



The January 2002 opening of Dubai Media City, a media and new technology

free-zone, has not really changed the situation where the government

officially bars access only to pornographic websites but in practice to many


The country is the keenest in the Gulf region about the Internet but that has

not made it the most tolerant. Yet no specific Internet law has been passed

and the only relevant legislation, the 1996 Telecommunications Law, is quite

liberal because it guarantees freedom of expression in all media.

And since January 2002, the UAE has become a kind of regional Silicon Valley, with

the opening of the Dubai Media City free-zone of media, computer and new technology

firms, including the Arab satellite TV station Middle East Broadcasting Centre

(MBC), which used to be based in London.About 30 businesses in all, mostly foreign,

are expected to set up shop there.

But this gives a false impression of opening up. A single ISP, the state-owned

telecommunications firm Etisalat, has a monopoly on Internet connections and

services. Internet access is filtered, the authorities say, to weed out “pornography.”But

this firewall also blocks a very large number of other sites.

Self-censorship is routine for fear of punishment.People avoid mentioning in e-mail

topics such as religion, morality, friendly countries or members of the ruling families.



Emirates Internet & Multimedia


The government ISP Etisalat



News site


Dubai Press Club


News about countries of the Gulf (in Arabic)



United Kingdom

POPULATION: 59,542,000

INTERNET USERS: 24,000,000


The government pushed through measures to monitor the Internet in the

wake of the 11 September attacks. The Terrorism Act passed in December

2001 extended the period of obligatory traffic log data retention by ISPs to at least a

year.The home office (interior ministry) also said it would monitor online financial

transactions and private e-mail messages. The new law said police no longer had

to get prior court permission to act, but simply approval from the home secretary

or a senior ministry official. This caused a big row and some ISPs said they might

move their servers out of the country.

In June 2002, home secretary David Blunkett proposed amending a controversial law

passed in June 2000, the “RIP Act” (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act), that

allowed monitoring of all Internet activity by the secret services as a means to fight

cybercrime. Blunkett now proposed to allow local authorities (tax and social security

offices and municipal services, for example) to access details of people’s Internet

activity, including e-mail they sent and received. This caused such uproar in the

media and among civil liberties groups that the government dropped the measure

two weeks later.

The independent Information Commissioner, Elizabeth France (responsible for

seeing that the government, official bodies and the secret services respected citizens’

rights to data privacy), savaged the proposal in an August 2002 report. She said data

retention and the proposed amendment of the RIP Act would seriously undermine

basic freedoms and reduce guarantees of privacy and that some aspects of the

proposed law would be illegal.


• Government information site

• Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties

• ISP Association UK


United States

POPULATION: 285,926,000

INTERNET USERS: 155,000,000


The United States was where the Internet started but it was also where

electronic surveillance of it began. The 11 September attacks have only

strengthened the government’s determination to monitor the flow of

information on the Internet.

More than half of all Americans are online and most have high-speed connections.

The Internet is a vital means of communication in the United

States. However, the 11 September 2001 attacks and the terrorists’ presumed use

of it to contact each other in preparing that operation abruptly changed the government’s

attitude to the Internet.

Just a few hours after the attacks, FBI agents went to the head offices of the country’s

main ISPs, including Hotmail, AOL and Earthlink, to get details of possible e-mail

messages between the terrorists. The online magazine Wired said FBI agents also

tried to install the Carnivore surveillance system (since renamed DCS 1000) on the

ISPs. It said they turned up at ISP offices with the software and offered to pay for

installation and operation. They reportedly demanded and obtained material from

certain e-mail accounts, most of whose names included the word “Allah.” All major

US-based ISPs are thought to have complied fully with the FBI demands.

Easing the rules

Carnivore, designed by the FBI, can record and store all messages sent or received by

an ISP’s customers, using word filters that make no distinction between different

kinds of messages, thus exceeding the bounds of normal surveillance. US civil liberties

campaigners fought Carnivore, which had never been used before without a

court order.However, the Combating Terrorism Act, passed urgently by the Senate on

13 September, after 30 minutes of debate just two days after the attacks, allowed

intelligence services to use it without having to seek such approval.A prosecutor can

now order electronic surveillance of someone for 48 hours without getting a judge’s




Monitoring Internet data was legalised on 24 October 2001 when the US House of

Representatives overwhelmingly passed the “USA Patriot Act” (Provide Appropriate

Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). It confirmed the authority

already given to the FBI to install Carnivore on an ISP’s equipment to monitor e-mail

messages and store records of Internet activity by people suspected of being in contact

with a foreign power. This requires only the permission of a special secret court.

The Act also expands the kind of information a prosecutor can ask for from an ISP

without a judge’s permission and invites ISPs to freely hand over to the authorities

data unrelated to content, such as records of websites visited.

A new step was taken on 20 November 2002 with Senate approval of the Homeland

Security Act, which set up a super-ministry with the job of preventing terrorist

attacks. It will eventually have a staff of 170,000 drawn from 22 government departments

and bodies. Section 225 of the law allows ISPs to disclose the content of their

customers’ messages at the request of federal or local officials if, “in good faith” they

think this will prevent death or serious injury. The Electronic Frontier Foundation

(EFF) says this means ISPs will be doing the work of a court. It deplores the fact that

disclosure will be on the basis of “good faith”rather than “reasonable belief”as before

and says the threats cited can be very general.

Section 225 also allows police to record without permission any message sent or

received by a “protected computer” (one used in interstate commerce or communications)

which is under attack. It also increases to 20 years the penalty for computer

crimes that cause serious injury and life imprisonment if they result in death.

Encryption in the dock

Many US officials have also criticised encryption, which allows Internet users to keep

their messages and activity confidential by encoding it with software. Encryption,

mainly used by companies to exchange sensitive economic data, has never been

banned in the United States. But its export is restricted under the Wassenaar

Arrangement, which required inspection of material that could be used for both civil

and military purposes. The 11 September attacks have revived the debate between

supporters and opponents of encryption.

The director of the FBI said in March 2001 that terrorists were using encryption. On

13 September that year, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg proposed a blanket ban on

encryption software whose makers had not handed over the decoding key to the


The authorities noted that plans to hijack 11 US airliners had been found on the

laptop computer of the man behind the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993

and that the FBI had needed 10 months to decode the files, most of which were

encrypted with the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software. PGP’s inventor, David

Zimmerman, who nearly went to jail in the 1980s for widely distributing his programme,

recently defended it in an interview in Futur(e)s magazine. He said the US


Congress, courts and media had discussed the issue for the past decade and concluded

society had more to gain than lose from powerful encryption. PGP was saving

lives all over the world, he said, and was used by human rights organisations everywhere,

especially in countries ruled by dictatorships.

Encryption software has under attack from the FBI’s Magic Lantern programme, an

e-mail that can secretly record the keystrokes of an Internet user, so the FBI can see

the passwords and codes employed by encryption users. After press reports about it,

the FBI denied having such a programme but admitted it was working on one.

Against censorship, but in favour of monitoring

As well as seeking to monitor the flow of online information to check what is being

said and exchanged, the authorities are also trying to use the Internet to put out US

propaganda in their war against terrorism.

The New York Times reported on 19 February this year that the Defense Department’s

Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) had proposed planting disinformation in the foreign

media, mainly through websites set up and secretly run by the OSI and through

e-mails sent to journalists or media offices. The revelation caused an outcry and

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer quickly said President Bush knew nothing

about the project and had ordered the OSI closed down because, said defense secretary

Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon “does not lie to the American people” or to “foreign


The Bush administration could also use the Internet to break the information

monopoly under some dictatorships. Two members of the US House of

Representatives proposed a law on 2 October 2002 to fight censorship worldwide.

The Global Internet Freedom Act would set up a federal Office of Global Internet

Freedom to counter jamming and censorship of the Internet by authoritarian

regimes and persecution of those who use it. The office would be part of the

International Broadcasting Bureau, which runs several radio stations that already

combat censorship, such as Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia. It would have a

$50 million budget for 2003 and 2004.

But what is censorship? The Global Internet Freedom Act would have the US take

no steps against government censorship aimed at protecting minors. A legal battle

pitting several civil liberties groups and public libraries against the Bush administration

over the Children’s Internet Protection Act is growing.The US supreme court

said on 12 November 2002 it would rule on the Act, passed in 2000 and obliging all

libraries receiving federal funds for Internet facilities to install anti-pornography

filters on their computers.

The Act’s opponents say it violates the first amendment to the US constitution concerning

freedom of expression and also blocks access to other websites as well as

pornographic ones. In May 2002, a federal court in Philadelphia said forcing public


libraries to install filters was indeed censoring freedom of expression protected by

the constitution. The federal government has appealed to the supreme court, saying

the filter software was the best available to prevent taxpayers’ having to subsidise

the spread of obscene websites and material unsuitable for children.Ten per cent of

the 143 million Internet users in the US go online at public libraries, 80 per cent of

which have received federal funds to set up Internet facilities.

An Orwellian future?

In early November 2002, the US media reported that the Pentagon had set up an

Information Awareness Office to develop technology to trawl Internet navigation

records to spot activity such as credit card purchases and airline reservations that

might indicate a potential terrorist.The head of this $200 million a year project, John

Poindexter, says software will pick out travel in dangerous parts of the world, suspicious

e-mail and dubious money transfers. The data will be regularly gathered by

intelligence services with the permission of governments and companies.

Opponents of the project call it “Orwellian” and several civil liberties organisations

say personal information unrelated to terrorism and which is none of the government’s

business would also be obtained. Marc Rotenberg, head of the Electronic

Privacy Information Center (EPIC), says the authorities would have data in their

hands hitherto only obtainable by court order as part of criminal investigations. He

deplores the lack of a body to monitor the collection of such information.

Poindexter was sentenced to six months in prison in 1990 for lying to the US

Congress in the Iran-Contras scandal but the conviction was quashed on grounds

that his legal rights were not respected.



American Civil Liberties Union


The Center for Democracy and Technology


The Digital Freedom Network


The Electronic Frontier Foundation


The Electronic Privacy Information Center





The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Basic documents :

• USA Patriot Act

• Homeland Security Act

• Global Internet Freedom Act

• Information Awareness Office

• Children’s Internet Protection Act

About Carnivore




News for specialists




POPULATION: 25,257,000



The number of Internet users doubled between 2001 and the end of 2002, but

the high cost of connection excludes most people from the Internet and the

few who can afford it suspect the government spies on their messages. Several

cybercafés have sprung up in the capital, Tashkent, but the US organisation

Internews says customers have to promise in writing not to send “political or religious”

e-mails. So self-censorship is routine in a country where no independent

media are allowed.

There are several ISPs, two of them privately-owned. The authorities ended the

monopoly of the state-owned ISP, Uzpak, in October 2002.

OpenNet Initiative (ONI), which catalogues censored sites, says the authorities systematically

block access to opposition sites such as the Birlik party and the banned

Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir. News sites that carry critical articles about President

Islam Karimov are sometimes censored.

In February 2003, a freedom of information law, which restricts news put out by all

media, including the Internet, came into force. Its article 4 says freedom to inform

the public can be restricted to “protect the moral values of society, national security

and the country’s spiritual, cultural and scientific potential.” This vague definition

leaves plenty of room for interpretation and thus censorship. The same is true of

other articles, which give pretexts such as “preserving cultural and historical values,”

“preventing psychological influence over and manipulation of public awareness”and

preserving “social stability.”



The Uzbek service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty


The news site Eurasianet



The censored site of Birlik, the opposition Popular Movement of Uzbekistan




POPULATION: 79,175,000




The Internet is not very widespread and remains under the control of the

ruling Communist Party. Cyber-dissidents are arrested, politically and culturally

“incorrect” websites are blocked and personal e-mail is monitored.

The government seems to be closely following China’s example.

When the younger-generation Nong Duc Manh took over the Communist

Party leadership in April 2001, hopes were raised for greater media freedom

and growth of the Internet. But this has not happened and Vietnam remains one

of the world’s most repressive countries where the Internet is concerned. One of

the main blocks to its growth is the high cost of communications. However, more

and more people in universities are logging on and cybercafés are springing up


The biggest of the five public or part publicly-owned ISPs, Vietnam Data

Communications (VDC), catering to nearly a third of all Internet users, is controlled

by the posts and telecommunications ministry (DGPT). The government blocks

access to websites it considers politically and morally “dangerous,” including foreign

news sites and those of human rights organisations set up by Vietnamese abroad.

VDC monitors what sites its customers visit.

Opposition groups say the government even regularly hacks into “undesirable” sites.

The Hoahao spiritual movement, for example, says the Vietnamese embassy in

Singapore sends viruses by e-mail to the movement’s followers and to political

opponents abroad.

But the government also uses the Internet for propaganda purposes. The proceedings

of the 9th Communist Party Congress in April 2001 were reported in several languages

on the website of the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA). Internet access

points were set up around the country so the population could follow the congress.

The party also advertises its doctrines on its own website, which opened in 2001.

The prime minister announced in August 2001 that the government would allow new


ISPs to operate, including privately-owned ones. But this has not yet happened.The

government has forbidden use of the Internet for political opposition, for actions

against national sovereignty and security and violations of morality or the law.

Deputy culture and information minister Nguyen Khac Hai ordered police on 8

January 2002 to seize and destroy any publication not authorised by the government.

The BBC reported that photocopies of printouts from the dissident news website

Dialogue were among the targets.

On 5 August 2002, the DGPT asked the authorities in the country’s 61 provinces to

step up monitoring and inspection of cybercafés.The government called for punishment

of those making “harmful use” of the Internet.Two days later, the culture and

information ministry suspended the website because it did not

have proper authorisation to operate and was putting out news that violated the

press law and “twisted the truth.”

The ministry refused to say what this news was, but official sources said the target

was the site’s discussion group, where topics such as territory ceded to China in

December 1999, political reforms and corruption in the Communist Party were being

discussed. The website was voted by the specialist press in 2001 as the best one for

young people.

On 16 August 2002, Phan An Sa, deputy chief inspector at the culture and information

ministry, called for access to subversive and pornographic material on the

Internet to be blocked. He listed five kinds of Internet use he said was harmful to

national security, including exchanges of anti-government material and use of the

Internet to defraud people. He added that the authorities should fine young people

and train them better how to use the Internet. Most Vietnamese users are aged

between 14 and 24.

In early 2003, Phan announced new laws would be passed to monitor Internet

content more closely. Sites run from Vietnam would have to have a licence and

inform the authorities whenever they changed the content of the site. He said

Internet operators, especially ISPs and cybercafé owners, should be responsible for

their customers’ messages. He told a foreign journalist in January 2003 that just as

restaurant owners had to ensure their food contained nothing harmful, cybercafé

owners were not allowed to serve poison to their young customers.

The government newspaper Thoi bao Kinh te Vietnam (Vietnam Economic Times)

said on 26 June that the government planned to set up a national monitoring system

to ensure that cybercafé users did not see “politically or morally dangerous”websites.

It said the culture and information ministry had reported “very many” violations of

the law about spreading subversive material and publishing state secrets. Prime

Minister Phan Van Khai ordered police on 24 June to inspect the country’s 4,000



Five cyber-dissidents arrested in 13 months

Le Chi Quang, a 31-year-old computer teacher and law graduate, was arrested on

21 February 2002 in a Hanoi cybercafé and charged with sending “dangerous” information

abroad. Police seized computer equipment and papers from his home and he

was sent to the B-14 prison camp near Hanoi. He was arrested after posting on the

Internet a very detailed article he wrote called “Beware of the empire to the north,”

about the circumstances of the government’s signing of border agreements with

China in 1999. The article was very widely distributed among Vietnamese abroad.

He was sentenced to four years in prison on 8 November and three years of house

arrest after that for “opposing the government of the socialist republic of Vietnam”

under article 88 of the criminal code banning the distribution of anti-government


During his three-hour trial, the rights of the defence were flouted and the foreign

media were not allowed to attend. Only his parents were allowed to be present. His

mother said he admitted posting the article but rejected the government’s accusation

and that the family would appeal against the sentence. He appeared to be physically

very week and his face was swollen. Friends said he had kidney problems and that

the prison authorities had refused him treatment. Nearly 100 people, including

dissidents, demonstrated outside the courthouse and police arrested one of them.

Police searched the house in Ho Chi Minh City of Tran Khue, a literature teacher and

founder of an anti-corruption group, on 8 March 2002 and confiscated his computer,

printer, camera, mobile phones and papers.Two days later, he was put under house

arrest. He had earlier posted on the Internet a letter he had written to Chinese

President Jiang Zemin on the eve of an official visit to Vietnam demanding that he

revise some clauses of the border agreements. In August 2001,Tran Khue had been

arrested and escorted home when he was found near the border with China investigating

the situation there.

Members of the special P4-A25 police unit went to the Hanoi home of Dr.Pham Hong

Son, the local representative of a foreign pharmaceutical company, on 25 March and

took him in for questioning about his translation of articles on the website of the US

embassy in Vietnam. Shortly afterwards, eight members of the police unit searched

his home and took away computer material and personal papers. He returned to the

police the next day to get them back but was turned away. A day later, he posted

online an open letter protesting against the illegal search and confiscation of his

property.Two days after that, on 29 March, his family reported he had vanished. His

mother was not allowed to visit him in prison until 15 April.

The family were told he had been arrested for translating and posting online an article

from the US embassy website called “What is democracy?” He has also written

many articles himself, such as “Promoting democracy: a key part of the new world

order” and “Sovereignty and human rights: the search for reconciliation,” which have


appeared on pro-democracy online forums and On 29 April,

he was reportedly at the B-14 prison camp. His wife Ha Thuy Vu and their two sons

were forced to leave their home after harassment and threats. In July, the interior

ministry said the cyber-dissident would stay in prison.

Police searched the house of journalist Nguyen Vu Binh on 25 September, seized his

personal belongings and took him to the B14 prison camp. He wrote for the magazine

section of the Communist Party newspaper Tap Chi Cong San but was dismissed in

January 2001 for trying to set up an independent political party. Since then, he has

written articles criticising the government.

He had been briefly arrested on 19 July for sending a written report to a human

rights conference in Washington DC. He was freed the next day but put under house

arrest and closely watched by police, who he had to report to every day. In August,

along with 20 other writers and dissidents, he signed a petition to the government

calling for reform of the judiciary and creation of an independent anti-corruption

squad. The authorities have not said why he was arrested this time, but it may have

been for posting online in August a critical article he wrote about the sensitive topic

of border agreements signed with China.

Cyber-dissident Nguyen Khac Toan was jailed for 12 years on 20 December by

a “people’s court” in Hanoi for “spying” after e-mailing material to allegedly

“reactionary”Vietnamese human rights organisations abroad. His rights to a fair trial

were ignored and the hearing, which lasted only a few hours, was held in secret, in

violation of article 131 of the national constitution and without even family members

present. He was only allowed to see his lawyer twice, a few days before the trial, but

was not able to talk to him in private.Toan, a former army officer, was arrested on

8 January in a Hanoi cybercafé and was being held in the B14 prison not far from


Dr Nguyen Dan Que, editor of the underground magazine Tuong Lai (The Future)

and author of many articles posted on the Internet, was arrested at his home in Ho

Chi Minh City on 17 March 2003. A few hours later, police returned to the house and

seized his computer, mobile phone and many personal papers. His arrest was

thought to be linked with a statement he put online criticising the lack of press freedom

in the country. He was responding to remarks made by a foreign ministry

spokesman on 12 March that freedom of information was guaranteed.

He has already spent nearly 20 years of his life in jail and is being held at the main

prison in Ho Chi Minh City. He studied medicine at Saigon University and was

arrested in 1978 and held without trial for 10 years. He was arrested again in 1990

after campaigning for democracy and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, including

20 at hard labour. He was freed in an amnesty in 1998, but was still frequently

interrogated and his home repeatedly searched. He was also publicly and regularly

vilified by the Ho Chi Minh City state security department.




Ministry of posts and telecommunications


Amnesty International news about Vietnam


Government information site


Radio Free Asia



POPULATION: 12,852,000



Zimbabwe is one of the most-connected countries in Africa, but in 2000 the

government passed a law to monitor e-mail. The open warfare waged by

President Robert Mugabe against the independent media and locally-based

foreign correspondents led in 2002 to passage of a press law that seriously

threatens freedom of expression. It was used to prosecute a journalist who

had an article posted on the website of the British daily The Guardian that

the government objected to.

More and more Zimbabweans are logging on to the Internet, especially in the

dozens of cybercafés that have opened in the capital, Harare, and major

towns. But soon they may not be able to look at websites that contain criticism of

President Robert Mugabe’s iron rule.

The government pushed through the Posts and Telecommunications Act in

November 2000 which regulated online activity by allowing the security services to

monitor phone calls and e-mail.The law obliges ISPs and other operators belonging

to the Computer Society of Zimbabwe to supply information to the authorities on

request and give police and intelligence officials access to their equipment.

Censorship and intimidation of journalists sharply increased in 2001 and early 2002

for those who dared criticise President Mugabe and reporters from the independent

media were frequently arrested and foreign correspondents deported.

At the end of 2001 and during 2002, the government banned most foreign (mainly

British) publications but their articles could still be read on their websites. This was

the government’s argument in prosecuting Andrew Meldrum, local correspondent

for the British daily The Guardian, the weekly The Economist and Radio France

International (RFI), in June 2002.

It was the first trial of a journalist under the 2002 Access to Information and

Protection of Privacy Act. Meldrum was accused of “abuse of journalistic privileges”

and “publishing falsehoods.”





He had reported in The Guardian an item carried by the independent Zimbabwean

paper The Daily News that said activists of the ruling ZANU-PF party had beheaded

a woman in a village in the northwest of the country.A few days later,The Daily News

admitted that the incident had not been confirmed and apologised to the ZANU-PF.

Two of the paper’s journalists, Lloyd Mudiwa and Colin Chiwanza, were arrested on

30 April and Meldrum was picked up the following day.

Since The Guardian newspaper is banned in Zimbabwe, the government accused it of

publishing the article in the country through its website. A Harare court cleared

Meldrum of all charges on 15 July.



The Computer Society of Zimbabwe


The newspaper The Daily News





Can it be that the United Nations, guardian of the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights, is giving a hand to the enemies

of freedom of expression and the free flow of information?

The World Summit on the Information Society, jointly organised

in Geneva this December by the UN, will officially aim to narrow

the “digital divide” between rich and poor nations. But during

the past two years of preparations, many countries that crack

down on freedom of expression have been taking advantage of

this goal to suggest rules that would allow them to curb the free

flow of information on the Internet.

Is the United Nations

against freedom of expression


Some of their proposals hark back to the “New World

Information and Communication Order” that nearly destroyed

UNESCO about 20 years ago. It is not unfair to say that the idea

behind the new elitist approach is that freedom of information is

not so much an individual right as a collective one best exercised

by governments.

The grave danger today is that the chaotic way the Internet has

expanded gives governments sometimes legitimate excuses to

try to restore some order to it. For some, that means preventing

it being used by terrorists, organised crime, money-laundering

and paedophiles. Others do not want commercial and personal

copyright to be rendered meaningless by the free exchange of

original material the new technology makes possible. And some

want to ensure growth of the Internet does not increase the

domination of one language and culture.

Democracies may be inclined to adopt Internet surveillance

systems that respect basic individual rights and the free flow of

information. But we know only too well how consistently

authoritarian regimes abuse legitimate measures so as to gain

complete control of news and free expression. The recent

annual reports of Reporters Without Borders and other such

organisations show that regimes that refuse to allow the traditional

media to be independent are the first to try to block free

access to the Internet.

Preparatory intergovernmental conferences for the Geneva

summit have revealed some alarming attitudes in the shape of

proposals about freedom of information for the Declaration of

Principles and the Action Plan the summit is due to adopt. Some

call for recognition that the Internet can be used for ends that

are incompatible with international stability and security and


that can harm a country’s unity, infrastructure and economy.

This is perhaps not entirely false, but it can be used to justify all

kinds of censorship by paranoid regimes. Just like at the time of

the New World Information Order, people are again talking

about readjusting the balance of news and respecting national

sovereignty in putting out stories.

Just as worrying is a proposal about supposed new ways of

looking at human rights, basic freedoms, economic progress and

social justice. This is like the old chestnut of China’s demand for

local conditions to be taken into account where human rights

are concerned. In other words, every government should be

allowed to decide what is good for the people.

National and international media, especially those online, have

every reason to distrust another new attitude, likewise being

presented as an advance in human rights. This is the “right to

communicate,” as a basic human right that cannot be restricted

to media organisations. At first sight, it seems to support freedom

of expression. But what it actually means is that media outlets

will violate human rights if they refuse to allow anyone to

express their views in a newspaper, on radio or TV or on a website,

even if those rights have not been challenged. Giving “a

right of reply” already involve technical problems. Recognising

such a “right to communicate” would make it impossible to

operate the media.

Many press freedom groups, including Reporters Without

Borders, have given the organisers of the Geneva summit a set

of demands they intend to press strongly.They state the principle

that new technology provides a means of communication

that, like others, does not need to have special laws passed

about it. The groups say the media should have the same rights


and freedoms on the Internet and on international satellite

networks as the traditional media have. They demand that the

summit’s Declaration of Principles stresses that, where freedom

of information is concerned,Article 19 of the Universal Declaration

of Human Rights is paramount and applies to all the new technology

as it does to the old.

Several more preparatory meetings are to be held before the

December summit. But the governments that are harshest

towards the media have so far shown they are not interested in

discussing such matters with “civil society,” even though

UNESCO, which is part of the summit, has shown sympathy for

the position of the press freedom organisations.

These groups are well aware that their concerns are only one

aspect of the summit, whose main aim is to put new information

technology at the service of the most undeveloped parts of the

world so people there can have a chance of a better life. But

they object to this laudable goal being exploited by the enemies

of press freedom to get the United Nations to rubber-stamp new

obstacles to independent news.

The fears of those who defend freedom have been revived by

the spectacle in recent times of the UN Commission on Human

Rights (some of whose members are among the world’s worst

rights abusers) which refuses to condemn the situation in countries

such as China and Cuba. Also, the second session of the

Information Society Summit is to be held in 2005 in Tunisia,

whose president has long been on the Reporters Without

Borders worldwide list of predators of press freedom and has

already staged trials of Internet users and thrown them in prison.







Afghanistan 13

Algeria 15

Australia 16

Azerbaijan 18

Bahrain 19

Bangladesh 20

Belarus 22

Belgium 23

Burma 24

Burundi 26

Canada 27

China 29

Cuba 46

Denmark 51

Egypt 52

European institutions 54

France 56

Germany 58

India 60

Iran 64

Iraq 67

Italy 68


Japan 69

Jordan 71

Kazakhstan 73

Kenya 75

Kuwait 76

Laos 77

Liberia 78

Malaysia 79

Maldives 82

Mauritania 84

Morocco 85

Mozambique 86

New Zealand 88

North Korea 90

Oman 91

Pakistan 92

Philippines 95

Russia 97

Saudi Arabia 99

Singapore 100

Somalia 102

South Africa 103

South Korea 105

Spain 108

Sri Lanka 109

Switzerland 111


Syria 112

Thailand 113

Tunisia 114

Turkey 117

Turkmenistan 119

Ukraine 120

United Arab Emirates 123

United Kingdom 125

United States 126

Uzbekistan 131

Vietnam 133

Zimbabwe 136




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