China tops Internet controls, says media watchdog
Live Punjab News Service
Beijing -- China leads the world in technological and judicial controls over online dissent, with 52 people in Chinese jails for Internet-related offences at the end of last year, a media rights' group said on Friday.
"China unquestionably continues to be the world's most advanced country in Internet filtering," Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its annual report on media freedom.
Despite the huge growth of Internet users in China and an estimated 17 million bloggers, the ruling Communist Party maintains control through sophisticated filtering tools and cooperation with domestic and global service providers and information technology firms.
The government employs "armies of moderators to clean up the content produced by the bloggers" and "self-censorship is obviously in full force," the group said.
The report said press freedom violations in Asia "peaked" in 2006, with 16 media workers killed, at least 328 arrested, 517 assaulted or threatened, and 478 media outlets censored.
"Censorship is very widespread and complete freedom to speak and write is rare in Asia," it said.
More than 60 people are in prison worldwide for criticizing governments online.
"China, the leading offender, is being copied by Vietnam, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Iran, and more and more bloggers and cyber-dissidents are in jail," it said.
At least four online dissidents are in jail in Vietnam, three in Syria and one each in Tunisia, Libya and Iran.
"Just five years ago, many people thought Chinese society and politics would be revolutionised by the Internet, a supposedly uncontrollable medium," the group said.
"Now, with China enjoying increasing geopolitical influence, people are wondering the opposite, whether perhaps China's Internet model, based on censorship and surveillance, may one day be imposed on the rest of the world."
China's Internet police block hundreds of websites that are deemed politically sensitive.
Tens of thousands of small Internet cafes have been closed in the last few years, with the government favouring large chains that can be relied upon to monitor and control online activity.