Yesterday, March 12, was World Day Against Cyber-Censorship. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) marked the day by releasing its newest “Enemies of the Internet” report, which includes the top five “spy” states that conduct systematic online surveillance resulting in serious human rights violations. Those countries include Iran, Syria, China, Bahrain and Vietnam.
Already one of the world’s harshest Internet censors, the Iranian government has recently increased its grip on online activity by blocking many of the virtual private networks that citizens use to access the Internet. Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Persian language Service, is on the frontline of this suppressive environment. Its radio signals are jammed, its website is blocked and its journalists and their families are routinely harassed. Yet, despite severe restrictions on access, Radio Farda’s website receives 10 million page views every month.
Like Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service employs digital tools and proxies to combat cyber-censorship attacks. Its reporting has prompted an increasing number of people to access the content using proxy tools like Psiphon and a special website that redirects users to RFE/RL’s azathabar.com content. The growth, according to Google Analytics, has been eye-catching: 41,599 visits in December 2012, 49,332 in January 2013, and 71,570 visits in February.
“Regardless of the measures used to prevent free speech and an open media, RFE/RL is committed to fighting cyber censorship everywhere, in all its forms,” said RFE/RL’s Acting President and CEO Kevin Klose. “Every day, our journalists face online censorship and on-air jamming — in Iran, Russia, Belarus, Turkmenistan and elsewhere — but we are succeeding in reaching audiences who crave credible news they can’t get anywhere else. We stand with those organizations, like Reporters Without Borders, that are fighting this good fight with us.”
To learn more about recent threats to RFE/RL’s journalists, visit their Journalists in Trouble page.