2009: A Terrible Year for Free Speech Online

Although it was hailed as the year that social media revolutionized the online world, it turns out 2009 was a terrible year for free speech online. At least, according to Clothilde Le Coz, the Washington director of Reporters Without Borders. In a recent article, Le Coz, the current Washington director for Reporters Without Borders, and whose current role is now to get the message out for readers and politicians to be aware of the constant threat journalists are submitted to in many countries, 2009 was an unprecedented year for online repression.

This might seem surprising, since people often refer to the internet as a point of liberation for journalists, bloggers and citizen activists and laud it as a vehicle for free expression. Unfortunately there are currently 100 bloggers and “cyber-dissidents” imprisoned worldwide as a result of posting their opinions online. Also alarming, the number of countries pursuing online censorship doubled this past year.

One of the worst offenders? China, which lead Internet censorship in 2009. Other countries such as Tunisia, Thailand, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan also blocked websites and blogs, and engaged in surveillance of online expression. Iran saw the most violence, during its elections this past summer, there were more than 100 arrests and many prison sentences were handed down. According to Reporters Without Borders, Iran, which is on it’s “Enemies of The Internet List”, also deployed a sophisticated system of Internet filtering and monitoring, especially in recent months.

It’s not exactly surprising that the above countries have been some of the worst offenders to online expression. But democratic countries have also enacted online censorships. Some European nations are working on new stops to control the Internet, and Australia is also planning to set up a compulsory filtering system that poses a threat to freedom of expression. To read the rest of Le Coz article, click here.

We hope that 2010 will be a better year for freedom of the press online. The Foundation looks forward to continuing to support freedom of the press both domestically and abroad.