12/09/2019

Governments Growing Tough on the Internet. The World’s Least Democratic Nations

Governments Growing Tough on the Internet. The  World’s Least Democratic Nations

There is hardly a government that likes to be criticized, on the Internet or not. However, the degree of oppressiveness differs from nation to nation, and there is a 'rating' of most undemocratic countries on Internet. Here is a review of ones holding the toughest line against freedom of speech on the Internet.


There are countries that are traditionally hard on most freedoms, and we often call them most undemocratic countries. Until recently, the Internet was believed to be the last stronghold of these freedoms, because it was technically hard to restrict users’ online activity. Today, these governments have developed tools that help them track online activity and block websites, which they do not want their citizens to view. Thus they restrict public access to resources, which are run by opposing groups or individuals in response to their trying to say the truth about political and economic situations, which they do not want to be made public. Fortunately, there are ways around censorship, like paid or free VPN service provided by BroVPN, but there are things to know for everyone wanting to get back the online freedom. These nations are:


Belarus 


Charter97, a Belarusian online news agency, was blocked in late 2017 for what the country’s officials said was “information undermining national interests.” The site bypassed the limits with the help of a mirror site and went on with the news – while users were able to read sites like Charter97 only with help of VPN providers. After that, Natalia Radzina the editor began to receive anonymous calls from someone threatening to kill her. She had been arrested back in 2010 by the KGB. After the release, she went to a neighboring country and stayed there for several years. She says she has all reasons to believe that the threats are coming from the governmental authorities. In summer 2018, the Prosecutor General came up with a draft of a law that would permit the state to punish agencies and individuals for posting what they would estimate as “fake news”. Freedom of speech on the Internet in Belarus has gone down again.


Russia


The 2016 Yarovaya Law makes it hard for activists and organizations to share their ideas without putting themselves in danger of prosecution. The law obliges ISPs, as well as VPN providers, to log user data, so that it could be checked by Russian authorities and security services. Another law that was passed in 2017 requires VPN services operating in Russia to restrict access to websites, which the government regards as a threat to national security. Although the Russian government is less brutal in enforcing these laws and prefers administrative measures (bans) rather than physical elimination, many VPN services had to leave Russia and set up business in less restrictive countries like Switzerland. 

 

Turkey 


The Erdogan administration does not seem to tolerate the slightest manifestation of protest and would not hesitate to destroy the last venue for freedom of speech – on the Internet. Over the past three years, hundreds of media outlets have been banned and/or suspended, and hundreds of journalists have been jailed. The new law requires that all content streaming services receive a license. Those, which would not, would be shut down by the Radio and Television Supreme Council. Now the services need to have their content approved prior to making it available online. Surely Turkey can lead this shameful rating of most undemocratic countries.


Vietnam


The Vietnamese government has jailed Le Dinh Luong, and environmental activist, for posting awkward truth on hos Facebook pages. Simultaneously, the government moved a bill that would oblige companies like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., to log users’ data collected from Vietnam-based servers, so that it could be submitted to governmental and security services. The Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union has ended up with the Tuoi Tre website suspended and the Tuoi Tre newspaper facing a frame-up charge and fine, because of their anti-corruption online activity. Vietnam is a one-party state, and it strives to move laws in keeping with a policy that is typical of countries like China and Russia. Freedom of speech on the Internet is under severe threat here.


Uganda 


The Ugandan government has introduces a social media tax requiring citizens to pay a an extortionate sum of money each day for accessing social media websites and platforms like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. Given the fact that Uganda is one of the world’s poorest countries, this looks like a deliberate action aimed at putting these resources out of the reach of the country’s citizens. That's a really cynic way to limit freedom of speech on the Internet. Yoweri Musevini has been the president since 1986, and he has always been death on social media.


Tanzania 


The Tanzanian government has passed a set of regulations, which obliges website and blog owners to pay about $930 for registration. Not a such difference with Uganda's way to limit freedom of speech on the Internet! Those who do not will have to pay a $2,200 fine or be jailed. The regulation gives authorities the freedom to prosecute websites, which they would estimate as “unethical”. For citizens of a country, where people earn but a couple of dollars each day, this appears to be extortionate and unrealistic. Two years earlier, a Tanzanian journalist was put in jail for three years for insulting the president of the country: he called him an “idiot” on Facebook.

Being a journalist appears to be an increasingly dangerous and even life-threatening profession, since there are lots of reports about them going missing, not only in the countries mentioned above. In some countries, like Mexico, journalists are under a bilateral attack from the government and drug dealers.


Happily, there are powers in the world, which continue to fight for the fundamentals of democracy. It has become a common practice for totalitarian countries to stop freedom of speech on the Internet – the hardest and actually the last stronghold of democracy. Unfortunately, western nations are not immune to these tendencies either, and there is a growing amount of examples of journalists, bloggers, website owners, publishing houses, news agencies, etc., running into trouble as they attempt to speak against the official line. BroVPN has chosen to resist the offense against freedom of speech on the Internet by showing users ways around the barriers. We are safe, because we are headquartered in a place, where no one wants us to log users’ data and where we do not need to abide by oppressive laws and regulations.

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