June 16, 2008 |
The BBC has an interesting article today based on a report out of the University of Washington. The report notes that 64 people have been arrested since 2003 due to blogging activities, which doesn't sound like a very large number, does it? However, three times as many people were arrested last year than were in 2006, which may imply that blogger arrests are on the rise.
The report indicates that the majority of blogger arrests take place in Egypt, China, and Iran, but they certainly don't have a monopoly on official repecrussions for using blogs and other forms of social media as a form of expression and protest; just a week and a half ago, the Moldovan government seized the computers of 12 "young people" who posted criticism of the ruling party of the Republic of Moldova online. The 12 individuals may face charges for making "calls for the overthrow of the constitutional order" and affecting the "statality and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova."
Myanmar is also making news recently for the arrest of editor and blogger Zaw Thet Htwe on Friday. Previously arrested in 2003 when editor of a sport magazine, he was pardoned in 2005, and has been helping to get emergency relief directly to the Bumese citizens after Cyclone Nargis.
And in the countries cited in the University of Washington report, there are harrowing stories as well. Egyptian blogger Karim el-Beheiri was released from jail after nearly two months. He was charged with "inciting unrest, damage to property and demonstrating" during protests at an Egyptian textile plant, and after his release, described punishments including electric shock, beatings, and deprivation of food and water.
Every time we hear about a "bloggers union" or complaints about negative comments on blogs, I'm reminded of bloggers like these, who don't enjoy the same freedoms that most of us do. They lack the ability to even verbally protest their government's actions online, something which most Americans take for granted. The University of Washington report gives the average jail time for these bloggers as 15 months, and admit their estimates may be low based on unconfirmed reports. It makes that whole "we need a union" mantra look just a little less relevant, doesn't it?