Communications Blocked in Libya, Qatari Blogger Arrested: This Week in Online Tyranny

Internet blocked in Tripoli. According to journalist Lisa Goldman, who is in touch with several sources in a position to know, the Internet is being blocked in Libya’s capital city of Tripoli. Long-distance land-line telephone service from the city is also down and mobile service appears interrupted, although that has yet to be confirmed.

Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt‘s uprisings, Libyans began protesting at the beginning of last month. Given that, among other reasons, Libya’s leader, Col. Moammar Qaddafi is far less connected to reality than the former leaders of those countries, this uprising has been much bloodier and more resembles a civil war than a large-scale protest. As many as 1,000 Libyans have been killed in the fighting.

Qatari blogger arrested. Sultan al-Khalaifi, a blogger and founder of a human rights organization, has been arrested in the Gulf emirate and kept incommunicado since yesterday.

Prior to his seizure and that of his computer by eight men in street clothes yesterday evening, he said he had been contacted by the Qatari security forces and told to report to them. Al-Khalifi’s organization, which focuses on detentions in Qatar, is registered in Switzerland.

China continues to react against Jasmine Uprisings. China has already banned the use of terms associated with the recent Mideast uprisings, like “jasmine” and “Tunisia.” Now it has gone a step further. A U.S.-based site has called for a series of “Jasmine Rallies” across China in various cities. The latest is to take place this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. local time and has posted locations for protesters to gather.

Already, the Chinese security apparatus has swung into action, uniformed and plainclothes police chivvying people who linger at the spots away. They have even enlisted “Public Security Volunteers” to strike people with brooms to clear the spot. In addition to Chinese citizens, some of whom have already been arrested during rather anemic protests so far, journalists and even the U.S. Ambassador to China have been harassed.

Syrian blogger released without charges. Six days after last week’s mass arrest of bloggers in Syria, one, Ahmad Abu Al-Kheir, has been released.

Al-Kheir, a journalism student who blogs under the name Ahmad Hadifa, had posted detailed circumvention techniques on his blog, where he had also reported on the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings.

Burmese start “Facebook Revolution.” In an astonishing example of bravery, given the country’s 2007 Saffron Revolution, which ended so violently, a group of Burmese have started a Facebook page called, “Just Do It Against Military Dictatorship.”

The campaign began on February 13, in the wake of Egypt’s successful uprising, calling for Burmese military strongman Senior Generatl Than Shwe to abdicate and asking the army to join the people. Fliers that said “Get Out Than Shwe!” were distributed by hand in locations around the cities of Mandalay and Taunggyi.

The Internet has very low penetration in the country, with approximately 400,000 users, and Twitter is banned.

Libyan photo by Al Jazeera | Qatar photo by Spellwriter | Syria photo by Jane Houle

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