Internet's worst censors named by pressure group

The 13 worst internet censors have been named by a human rights group. Egypt has been added to the list of 'internet enemies' because of the harassment and imprisonment of bloggers.

The Reporters Without Borders (RWB) group represents the interests of journalists working in dangerous situations around the world and has organised a web-based protest to put pressure on the most repressive web regimes.

"Throughout the world, more than 60 Internet users are currently in prison for posting news or information on the Internet," said an RWB statement.

"Three countries – Nepal, Maldives and Libya – have been removed from the annual list of Internet enemies," said RWB. "But many bloggers were harassed and imprisoned this year in Egypt, so it has been added to the roll of shame reserved for countries that systematically violate online free expression."

The body is asking internet users to take part in a 24 hour campaign to highlight the issue of online free speech around the world. A map illustrating the 13 'internet black holes' was projected on to major buildings in Paris, while a billboard containing the image was driven around the streets of New York yesterday.

The body has been particularly critical of Yahoo!, which it says passed on information that led to the arrest of one blogger in China. The group wants internet users to leave a voice mail message of protest for Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang, and says that 200 people have already done so. Many more have registered their protest in other ways, it says.

"In response to an appeal by Reporters Without Borders, more than 10,000 people have already participated in an online demonstration that was launched at 11 a.m. today on the organisation’s website with the aim of condemning the 13 Internet enemies and combatting online censorship," said RWB. "200 people have already recorded a message for the founder of Yahoo!, deploring the fact that his company helps the Chinese authorities track down cyber-dissidents."

The RWB's research says that China is still one of the biggest enemies of free speech online. "China unquestionably continues to be the world’s most advanced country in Internet filtering," said RWB. "The authorities carefully monitor technological progress to ensure that no new window of free expression opens up."

"After initially targeting websites and chat forums, they nowadays concentrate on blogs and video exchange sites. China now has nearly 17 million bloggers. This is an enormous number, but very few of them dare to tackle sensitive issues, still less criticise government policy," it said.