REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERES (RSF) has declared March 12th to be Online free expression day and is asking people around the world to rally around and join them in condemning cyber-censorship.
The group has opened nine different virtual protest areas, which, in the real world, protesters are banned from using to express their views.
These include Cuba’s Revolution Square, the streets of Rangoon in Burma, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, One Party State Square in Vietnam, People’s Square in Turkmenistan, Ben Ali Square in Tunisia, Prison Square in Eritrea, and Hosni Mubarak Square in Egypt. Mageek Square in Harrow somehow escapes approbation.
The RSF says, "We are giving all Internet users the opportunity to demonstrate in places were protests are not normally possible" and reckons, "A response of this kind is needed to the growing tendency to crack down on bloggers and to close websites".
Upon entering the site, users can create their own Avatars and make themselves banners with slogans emblazoned across them. They can then virtually march in any of the virtual arenas provided, without fear of being run over by tanks, hit with rubber bullets or forced to recite passages from The Rogister.
According to the RSF press release, over 2600 websites, blogs, or forums were closed down and blocked by repressive governments last year. It also claims that 62 people have been jailed for using the Internet to voice their views.
As reported on several occasions by the Inq, governments often censor sites and search results for various reasons. Video site YouTube is blocked by one country or another every Tuesday and Thursday at least.
Online free expression day protests are running for 24 hours, until 10.00 GMT on March 13th, after which time repressive regimes are presumably free to resume normal repression.
In addition to the nine countries singled out as virtual protest venues, the group has also blacklisted a host of other countries for their evil Internet restricting ways. Zimbabwe and Ethiopia have been newly elevated to 'Internet Enemy' status, where they join the ranks of Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
The group also warned that it was keeping a close eye on a further 11 countries, including Bahrain, Eritrea, Gambia, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The RSF is making a Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents available in French and English on its website.
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