The most censored region in the world

Singapore and Jordan are tightening their grip on Internet regulation, but the countries are just two of many in the region which is most notorious for blocking content online.

Jordan has become the latest country to attempt censoring Internet-published content, by blocking a large number of websites within the country which express dissent against the government.

This follows the recent move in Singapore to control content published by bloggers, by issuing regluations to force the blogging community to get individually licenced (at US$40,000) and submit to government censorship.

While the fresh wave of regulations spells bad news for the countries – it’s just another block on the network in a region which suffers the most censorship in the world.

Most censored region

The Middle-East and south-east Asia is the most censored region in the world, according to both the OnNet Initiative and Reporters Without Borders.

According to OnNet, Burma, China, and Vietnam maintain the most pervasive regimes of Internet filtering in the region – with governments primarily targeting independent media and content related to politically sensitive issues, human rights, and political reform.

In Reporters Without Borders’ (RWB) Enemies of Internet report for 2013, the organisation listed the five worst states for online censorship.

All states listed in the report are from the Middle-East and Asia regions, and have instances where journalists and netizens (Internet citizens) have been arrested, or worse, killed because of their online activities.

Country Internet Population Journalists jailed Netizens jailed Deaths
Bahrain 960,000 2 1

Middle-Eastern state, Bahrain has one of the best levels of Internet coverage in the region, according to RWB.

However, with the rise of socio-political instablilty, Internet filtering and monitoring increased as rapidly as its Internet penetration.

While filtering targets “pornographic” content, political and religious content countering the ruling regime’s views are also hit.

Netizens who are arrested are ordered to hand over passwords for social media platforms, which are then investigated for dissident behaviour so far as checking on Facebook “likes” and retweets on Twitter.

OpenNet - Political censorship
OpenNet – Political censorship
Country Internet Population Journalists jailed Netizens jailed Deaths
Vietnam 31 million 2 31

In Vietnam, services providers monitor and block sites and content that displeases the authorities.

Bloggers are actively monitored and personal information is submitted to access landline services.

While media freedom and freedom of expression are guaranteed in Vietnamese law, these are disregarded if they contradict the country’s ruling party, the report says.

OpenNet - Social censorship
OpenNet – Social censorship
Country Internet Population Journalists jailed Netizens jailed Deaths
China 564 million 30 60

China is the most notorious country in the world for its censorship practises. According to RWB, the Chinese Communist Party runs one of the world’s biggest digital empires.

Internet access is owned by the state, which in turn owns a majority share of all major national service providers.

While access to international sites is growing, it is limited – and subject to filtering from at least 5 different bodies (collectively known as the Great Firewall of China).

According to RWB, China jails more people involved in news and information than any other country, with email monitoring and phone-tapping leading to the arrests of bloggers and journalists, alike.

OpenNet - Conflict and security censorship
OpenNet – Conflict and security censorship
Country Internet Population Journalists jailed Netizens jailed Deaths
Iran 25.2 million 26 20 1

According to RWB’s report, the Iranian goverment is trying to establish its own national internet – which it will control – while slowly blocking out access to International sites.

The country already limits international access speeds to 128Kb/s, RWB said, and plans to increase the costs of subscribing to such networks.

Internet Service Providers must register with the government and websites must get a licence from the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI).

Blogs must also “register“ with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance before being carefully scrutinized by a regulatory body, the report said.

Filtering is carried out at all levels by such means as blacklists, keywords, URLs and IP addresses.

OpenNet - Internet tool censorship
OpenNet – Internet tool (email, chat, browsing) censorship
Country Internet Population Journalists jailed Netizens jailed Deaths
Syria 5 million 22 18 18

Syria stepped up its control of Internet content as the conflict in the region intensified, RWB reported.

The ruling regime installed systems to prevent the spread of news and images and the country’s centralised Internet architecture allows the government to cut itself off from the rest of the world.

The country’s systems allow for targetted monitoring and spyware and malware distribution which allows for the monitoring of a citizen’s online and offline activities.

South Africa Map

Censorship in South Africa

South Africa is no stranger to Internet censorship – though things are far less restricted in the country.

According to OnNet, in 2006 the SA government began prohibiting sites hosted in the country from displaying X18 (explicitly sexual) and XXX content (including child pornography and depictions of violent sexual acts); site owners who refuse to comply are punishable under the Film and Publications Act 1996.

In a recent presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Home Affairs, the Film and Publications Board (FPB) said that one of its strategic objectives is to regulate the Internet.

According to the FPB, however, despite what it wants to do, it is not possible to regulate Internet content, further noting that there are high volumes of pornography distributed online, which it just can’t handle.

When it comes to taking action against Internet citizens, South Africa is still in the clear.

According to OpenNet, South Africa has only one reported case of a netizen being arrested.

In July 2007, Juan Duval-Uys was arrested after using his blog, SA Male Prostitute, to pose as a former male prostitute called Skye. He used the platform to “out” prominent South African men, claiming to have had sex with them.

Duval-Uys was arrested on charges of fraud, crimen injuria and theft, all as a result of his online activities.

More on Internet censorship

Google: the Internet can empower Myanmar

China, Russia want more control of the Internet

No worldwide compromise for Internet regulation


Must Read

Partner Content

Show comments

Trending Now

Follow Us

The most censored region in the world