Blogs from the underground: jail time and beatings for computer nerds in Egypt


Most of the countries on Reporters Without Borders' annual "enemies of the internet" blacklist -- China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba -- are nations that have long been identified as human rights abusers by human rights groups, so it's no surprise to hear that they're suppressing freedom of expression on the internet, as well. But the inclusion of Egypt on this year's list, released today, highlights new problems in a nation supposedly moving towards democracy. Among several hundred activists arrested and beaten in recent crackdowns are a handful of bloggers, targeted for speaking out in favor of reform online.

Other internet baddies include:

  • Belarus, thanks to its regime's control of the national communications system and a nasty penchant for blocking access to opposition websites around election time.
  • In Burma, the cost of home computers is so prohibitive that users must frequent internet cafes, where common email programs like Yahoo and Gmail are blocked, and government-installed spyware takes screenshots every five minutes to snoop at what customers are doing online.
  • In 2005, an Iranian blogger was given a two-year sentence in June for supposedly insulting the country's Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • No surprise to find North Korea among the offenders -- only a few thousand privileged folk have access to an extremely censored version of the internet, which includes just a few hundred websites, thirty or so of which are like this one. (Click on "English" to read it. Hilarious!)