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Bahrain and Belarus Added to an 'Enemies of the Internet' List
A media rights group has added Bahrain and Belarus to its list of countries with the most restrictions on Internet freedom. At the same time, the group removed Libya and Venezuela from a list of countries considered under surveillance.
Reporters Without Borders released the lists in its latest "Enemies of the Internet" report. The group notes the importance of the Internet and social networks in the Middle East during what has been called the Arab Spring. It says social media like Facebook and Twitter have been firmly established as tools for protests and vehicles for freedom.
The report identifies twelve countries as "Enemies of the Internet." Among them are Burma, China, Cuba, Iran and North Korea. The list also includes Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Bahrain and Belarus are the newest additions to the list. Reporters Without Borders says Bahrain used repressive measures to block news and information after unrest began in the Arab world last year. It says the government has used a combination of methods to suppress the opposition. These include keeping international media away from the country, arresting bloggers and harassing human rights activists.
Delphine Halgand heads the Reporters Without Borders office in Washington. She says Bahrain has a very developed system for watching and blocking online communications. She says the country has increasingly used these systems after unrest started. She says Bahrain has arrested bloggers and other people for what they published on the Internet. She gave the example of Zakariya Rashid Hassan, who was arrested and accused of inciting hatred. Reporters Without Borders says he was charged with disseminating false news and calling for the ouster of Bahrain's rulers. He died last Apri. Two officers have been accused of beating him to death.
Reporters Without Borders says other bloggers and activists have suffered repeated physical attacks and been discredited by the government. As for Belarus, Ms. Helgand says its government has increasingly blocked websites. She says the number of affected websites blocked is growing. Even some news and opposition websites were attacked. I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 26Mar2012)