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Robert Mecea/AP

Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Blogger?

June 18, 2008 04:14 PM
by Shannon Firth
More and more bloggers are being jailed for their political views; online watchdogs predict increased arrests in the coming year.

30-Second Summary

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At least 64 bloggers have been arrested as a result of their blogging activities since 2003. Iran, Egypt, and China account for more than half of these arrests. With the approaching elections in China, Pakistan and Iran, free-media advocates predict these numbers will likely increase.

Reporters Without Borders extols the role of bloggers as “often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.”

The University of Washington’s World Information Access project breaks out the assault on free speech by country in a color-coded chart. Its numbers exclude professional journalists who also blog, as well as 344 arrests in Burma that could not be verified.

On April 20, 2003, Iranian blogger Sina Motallebi became the first known blogger ever arrested for the practice. Other Iranian bloggers, like Hossein Derakhshan, living in Canada, demanded Motallebi’s release and chronicled his 22-days in jail.

In December 2007, Fouad al-Farhan became the first blogger arrested in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, most likely for criticizing the government’s detainment of alleged terrorists. Farhan said the arrested men were merely trying to form a civil rights group. Some 200 other online critics demanded Farhan’s release on their own blogs.

In contrast to these arrests, Turkey recently relaxed its laws against criticizing Turkish culture, a move both heralded and panned by free speech advocates as a too-small step in the right direction.

Headline Link: Blogger arrests growing

Background: High-profile blogger arrests

Related Topics: Iran’s restricts Web access, Turkey allows more freedom

Opinion & Analysis: The importance of bloggers and free speech

Reference: World Information Access Project

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