report released today [PDF] by Reporters Sans Frontières, the number of bloggers around the world arrested because of their online work jumped from 59 to 151 between 2008 and 2009, an increase of 155%. Additionally, one blogger died in prison and 61 were physically assaulted. The most infamous cases perhaps occurred during the violent unrest in Iran following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection. But RSF said the number of overall arrests and attacks can actually be traced to crackdowns in at least 10 countries.According to a
"The number of countries affected by online censorship has doubled from one year to the next - a disturbing tendency that shows an increase in control over new media as millions of netizens get active online," said Lucie Morillon, head of the group's Internet and Freedoms Desk.
The report is a profoundly depressing read. As tech journalists writing from the soft comfort of our homes, it's easy to forget that in many places of the world, the simple act of posting something to a blog has lethal repercussions.
Elections, politics and the economy were the primary reasons bloggers ended up in jail. While China is the worst, Iran, Tunisia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan also frequently monitor or block websites and blogs.
From the report:
"Two Azerbaijani bloggers, who were sentenced to two years in prison for making a film mocking the political elite.The Turkmen Internet remains under total state control. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer is still in jail, while the famous Burmese comedian Zarganar still has 34 years of his prison sentence to serve. Victims of Internet policing also include such leading figures in the defence of online free expression as China's Hu Jia and Liu Xiaobo and Vietnam's Nguyen Trung and Dieu Cay.
"In South Korea, a blogger was wrongfully detained for commenting on the country's disastrous economic situation. Around six netizens in Thailand were arrested or harassed just for making a connection between the king's health and a fall in the Bangkok stock exchange."
In March, Reporters Sans Frontières will launch what it's calling the Enemies of the Internet campaign to highlight the countries affected by online intimidation and censorship.
Photo by Amir Darafsheh, Tehran, Iran.