Blogger Arrest Galvanizes Internet: This Week in Online Tyranny

Ali Abdulemam arrested – Internet actually cares. The big (and bad) news this week was the arrest of Bahraini blogger and forum moderator Ali Abdulemam. He was arrested as part of a crackdown against democratic speech in the country.

Abdulemam was well-liked and proved to be an inspiration for bloggers in the Arabic and Muslim worlds. He was a family man and was big on engagement. In part because of who he was, in part because of how blatant the falsehoods that powered his arrest were, his arrest has lit up the Internet in a way that no imprisoned blogger has in years.

Tunisian blogger Sami Ben Gharbia had this to say about Ali.

“He (is) a pioneer among Arab activists, using the internet to militate for peaceful reform. He inspired many young Bahrainis and Arabs to use the internet to express themselves and engage in spirited debate.”

Jillian York, project coordinator at the Berkman Center and blogger, agreed and elaborated.

“I’ve worked on 3-4 campaigns in the past year and though all get plenty of local (in-country) attention, few make the major headlines that this one has, and few mobilize people globally. I think it’s probably fair to say there are two major reasons for this beyond who Ali is (a likable, well-known blogger): a) his connection to the Global Voices community and b) a large, global, multilingual core group of people working on the campaign.”

As even the most casual reader of this column will know, online freedom, in every country, is getting its teeth kicked in these days. “Time to get off our fat cop asses and ride.”

Visit the Free Ali site or our previous post for suggestions and links on how to help.

Craigslist replaces sex ads with “censored” bar. The online advertising forum has been pressured by activists and some politicians to eliminate its adult ads because of allegations of prostitution and child abuse. After a week they pulled the bar but the ads haven’t returned.

The publishing of sex ads is clearly legal so Craigslist’s refusal to comment for the media and its use of the word “censored” make it seem more petulant than either careful or courageous. They’re not being “censored” in any way. They’re being pressured. There is no right not to be pressured. So yield to the pressure or tell those pressuring you to go suck a lemon. But with Ali Abdulemam being tortured, DO NOT WHINE ABOUT CENSORSHIP!

China makes it illegal to buy mobile phone without ID. Honestly, we should start a special column just for China. Well, the headline says it all, really. The noose is getting tighter. You got to love the ham-fisted spin the Chinese are putting on it at least . . . It’s being done to combat spam. LOL.

China Twitter clones ordered to hire censors. China’s microblogging services are being told to appoint “self-discipline commissioners” to oversee their services.

Egypt releases Christian blogger and introduces administrative measure to further censor websites. Hani Nazeer, a Coptic Christian, was arrested and kept in prison for two years under emergency authority before being released this in late July. He had posted a link to a critical review of an anti-Christian novel.

The country’s minister of culture released a decision to forbid any website to publish that uses audio or video not abide by Egypt’s intellectual property law. While copyright is a legitimate issue, it is often used to summarily shut down sites critical of the regime. I can’t imagine Egypt will prove to be an exception to this rule.

Japanese reporter Twitters his way to freedom in Afghanistan. Kosuke Tsuneoka’s kidnappers asked him to help them use their new mobile phones. He took advantage of the opportunity to Tweet, “i am still alive, but in jail” and “here is archi in kunduz. in the jail of commander lativ.” Troops found him and, after five months he was free. (If anyone can find Tsuneoka’s Twitter account, please post the link in the columns.) This isn’t the first time Twitter has been a get out of jail free card. (Well, get out of jail after being scared half to death card anyway.)

Cuban blogger arrested Cuban authorities arrested blogger Luis Felipe Rojas again. He was detained for most of a day. “One day, I will not return home so quickly, I know it. Now, I write while I can.” He had posted a human rights report on Cuba on his blog.

VOIP crackdown in Oman and UAE. Oman’s telecommunications authority is instituting a ban on virtual private networks. This would have the effect of banning VOIP services in that country. Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates, three men were arrested for doing just that. The rationale for their arrest was their having cheated telephone companies out of money.

Bahrain photo by Harold Tejada | Cairo photo by Vyacheslav Argenberg

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