Egypt added to RSF Internet blacklist, Libya off


  • World
  • Tuesday, 07 Nov 2006

By Francois Murphy

PARIS (Reuters) - Journalists' rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has added Egypt to its list of the worst suppressors of freedom of expression on the Internet but removed neighbouring Libya as it found no Web censorship there. 

Nepal and the Maldives were also removed from the 2006 list, published on Monday, bringing the total number of countries on it to 13, all of them states regularly criticised by human rights groups, such as Cuba, Myanmar, Iran and Turkmenistan. 

"(Egyptian) President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, has shown a particularly worrying authoritarianism as concerns the Internet," RSF said in a statement. 

Internet use is one of the freedoms monitored by the rights group surveying civil liberties around the world. 

RSF said three bloggers were arrested in Egypt in June and detained for two months for saying they were in favour of democratic reform, while others had been harassed. 

It also expressed concern at an Egyptian court ruling that said an Internet site could be shut down if it posed a threat to national security. 

"(That is) a worrying position which could open the door to excessive censorship of the Web," RSF said. 

Conversely, in neighbouring Libya, long treated as a pariah by the West, the situation was found to be improving. 

"Following a mission to the country, Reporters Without Borders observed that the Libyan Internet was no longer censored," it said, adding that no online dissidents were imprisoned there any more. 

"President Muammar Gaddafi is, however, still considered a predator of press freedom," it added. 

Egypt is ranked 133rd and Libya 152nd in RSF's annual press freedom index, which was published last month. 

NORTH KOREA STILL WORST 

Of the dozen countries other than Egypt on RSF's Internet blacklist, all but one -- Tunisia -- were in the bottom 20 of its press freedom index. Tunisia was 21st from last. 

China was the most advanced country in filtering the Internet for "subversive" content, and Beijing was now focusing on blogs and video-exchange sites, RSF said. 

"North Korea remains, as in 2005, the worst Internet black hole in the world," the rights group said, adding that only a few officials had access to the Web through Chinese connections. 

Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Syria were also on the blacklist. 

The freeing of three "cyber dissidents" from prison led to the removal of the Maldives from the blacklist. In Nepal, King Gyanendra's handing power back to political parties enabled the formation of a government and led to improved civil liberties, RSF said. 

"The Net is no longer censored and no cases of bloggers being harassed or arbitrarily detained have been registered," the rights group said. 

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