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RSF report: 15 enemies of the internet

21 November, 2005

On 17 November 2005 Reporters without Borders (RSF) released a new report during the WSIS on the 15 enemies of the Internet, and 15 countries to watch. RSF writes: "The 15 'enemies' are the countries that crack down hardest on the Internet, censoring independent news sites and opposition publications, monitoring the Web to stifle dissident voices, and harassing, intimidating and sometimes imprisoning Internet users and bloggers who deviate from the regime’s official line." Amongst those enemies Tunisia is prominently mentioned, next to predictable countries such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The report says about Tunisia: "President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whose family has a monopoly on Internet access inside the country, has installed a very effective system of censoring the Internet. All opposition publications are blocked, along with many other news sites. The regime also tries to discourage use of webmail because it is harder to spy on than standard mail programmes that use Outlook. The Reporters Without Borders site cannot be seen inside Tunisia. The government also jails cyber-dissidents and in April 2005, pro-democracy lawyer Mohammed Abbou was given a three-and-a-half-year sentence for criticising the president online. Yet Tunisia seems well thought-of by the international community for its management of the Internet since it has been chosen the International Telecommunication Union to host the second stage of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in November 2005."

The countries to watch cannot be compared to the list of enemies, but "many countries that have so far respected online freedom seem these days to want to control the Internet more. Their often laudable aims include fighting terrorism, paedophilia and Internet-based crime, but the measures sometimes threaten freedom of expression," RSF writes. The European Union is included in this latter list, for the e-commerce directive of 2000. "(This) proved a threat to freedom of expression, by making ISPs responsible for the content of websites they host and requiring them to block any page they consider illegal when informed of its existence. This creates a private system of justice, where the ISP is called on to decide what is illegal or not."

The report was presented in spite of the fact that Secretary General Robert Ménard was not allowed into the country to attend the WSIS. "Plain clothes Tunisian police officers physically prevented Ménard from leaving an Air France plane after it touched down in Tunis on 17 November 2005. One officer told the head of the worldwide press freedom organisation that he had no right to get off the plane since he did not have accreditation for the WSIS." Though Ménard had official accreditation, he was held on the plain and flown back.

On 17 November, other representatives from the organisation managed to stick a giant 2 by 3 meter poster of the "black holes in the web" on the entrance floor of the main expo building.

Reporters without borders, 15 enemies of the Internet (17.11.2005)

Robert Ménard prevented from attending the UN Internet summit



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