Home Rwandan Website Editor Murdered: This Week in Online Tyranny

Rwandan Website Editor Murdered: This Week in Online Tyranny

Editor of Rwandan website murdered. Jean Leonard Rugambage, the acting editor of Umuvugizi newspaper, which had been blocked by the Rwandan government, was murdered last Friday. He was by two men who fled in a car outside his home in Kigali. Bless his family. The Rwandan government should feel ashamed. Again.

Reporters Without Borders opens anti-censorship shelter. “The group unveiled a room in its Paris headquarters set aside for fugitive journalists or bloggers from abroad to drop in and blog with secure Internet connections using software that masks their online identity.” The center also trains bloggers and others in the use of circumventors and proxies and other tools to read and publish while avoiding arrest. They offer a high-speed anonymous Internet connection as well. Reporters Without Borders, why must you rock so?

Internet “kill switch” bill heads to Senate. The dreadfully misguided Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act Bill is heading to the U.S. senate. This bill gives the President emergency powers to power down the Internet in the event of an international attack on the systems. Not only is concentrating power over a massive aspect of the nation’s communications system in one hand a bad idea, it is a power which will never be repealed if granted. No one gives back power once they have it. Also, it creates a situation in which providers and communications companies are co-opted into the process. Another awful idea. On one hand, relying on CEOs to be deputies is unfair to them. On the other hand, giving them that power is unfair to us.

Pakistan to monitor all Internet for “blasphemy.” Last Friday, Pakistan announced it is beginning to monitor all the Internet tools and sites they can for “blasphemy.” Blasphemy is a handy word and let’s watch as it dovetails with statistical improbability with the interests of the country’s rulers. Shall we? Oh, let’s.

India requires Skype, Google, RIM to provide all data through their devices to Indian security agencies. This is surprising news from a country not often associated with draconian online security and the paranoia it results from. “The Department of Telecom (DoT) will ask these companies to either ensure that data going through their networks be made available to security agencies in a readable format or face a ban from offering services in India…Such a law would force companies such as Skype to give complete access to their networks or set up a local server in India to allow security agencies to track content.” My hand to G-d I’m baffled by this. Is Indian trying to get rid of that pesky technological elite it’s built up? Is it jealous of Pakistan?

Turkey fights back against online censorship. Turkey has been the victim of some egregious censorship actions, predicated as much on child porn as religion. They have shut down, and kept down, everything from YouTube to Blogger. An alliance of 30 groups of Internet and free speech organizations are now attempting to reverse that trend in the courts, with lawsuits. Go Turkey!

Afghanistan now blocks Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Gmail and many others. Internet access in the country grew from near none to half a million in the last decade. It started as an online war against Taliban (and presumably Al Qaeda) recruiting. Then they added porno. And so it goes. Again, watch how frequently the government’s interest and the Internet censorship authorities’ diverge. I’m going to bet on infrequently.

Lebanon arrests three for commenting on Facebook. Three were arrested, and a fourth has a warrant out on him, for “slandering” President Michel Suleiman on Facebook. This is especially disheartening as Lebanon is usually more of a bastion of free speech than the countries around it, although they have pulled this stunt before.

Look here. Every single “law” that limits free speech is going to be misused by powerful people in that country that passes it for political purposes. There are no exceptions to this. In five years of following this topic and reporting on it I have seen zero exceptions. Some countries, depending on the way power is balanced, will neutralize such grabs, beat them back or at least moderate them. But most won’t. Also, don’t forget that the Roman republic became the Empire by consistent, incremental changes in laws. The Third Reich murdered Jews, Gypsies, gays and others all according to the law. The law is not a repository of rights. It is a hammer. Which way it swings depends entirely on who’s hand’s on the handle.

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