This Week in Internet Censorship: Crackdowns in Nigeria, Tajikistan and Morocco, Immolation in Vietnam

Tajikistan Launches Online Censorship Body

Last week, the former Soviet nation of Tajikistan made headlines for having launched a program of Internet censorship.  In fact, the country has been known to selectively block websites for political reasons for several years; this latest news actually involves the introduction of a “volunteer-run body that would monitor the Internet for citizens who criticize President Imomali Rakhmon.”  

In the same week, however, there was news of new censorship in the wake of conflict in the eastern autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan.  According to Eurasianet, telecommunications lines to the province were cut on July 24 and the website of Asia-Plus, the country’s largest independent news agency, has been blocked.  It was also reported that several ISPs had blocked YouTube.Early in 2012, authorities in the country also briefly blocked Facebook.

We urge the Tajik government to restore access to these sites.

Nigeria’s Senate President Calls for Censorship

In Nigeria, where online censorship has not previously been reported, Senate President David Mark is calling for authorities to clamp down on social media in light of its being used to “demean leaders.”  Mark is no stranger to Internet regulation; for years the Senator has pushed for cybercrime legislation in the West African country, calling cybercrime a “crime against humanity.”  Still, at a time when a major cybercrime bill was on the table in Nigeria, the OpenNet Initiative stated that the Nigerian government “appears to be primarily concerned with fighting cybercrime, and not with regulating online content.”

In light of Mark’s recent remarks, that may no longer be true.  EFF will be keeping a close eye on Nigeria as this story develops.

Morocco Arrests Another Netizen

Morocco has arrested yet another netizen, at least the third so far this year. The young man, whose name has not been made public, was arrested in mid-July for reportedly publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet in the form of different animals. Online news site eMarrakesh reported that the young man’s arrest was ordered, in a rather ironic twist, by Minister of Justice and Freedom Mustapha Rashid.

As we’ve written before, there are three red lines that journalists and netizens in Morocco may be at risk for crossing: Insulting the monarchy or Islam, and denying Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara.

Vietnamese Blogger’s Mother Protests Daughter’s Imprisonment By Self-Immolating

The mother of imprisoned Vietnamese blogger Ta Phong Tan died earlier this week after setting herself on fire to protest her daughter’s detention on charges spreading anti-state propaganda. Ta Phong Tan, a former police officer who documented social injustice on her blog Conglysuthat (Vietnamese for “Justice and Truth”), was arrested in September of 2011, according to the France-based exile support group Vietnam Committee on Human Rights. She was also a member of the Free Journalists Network of Vietnam, a press freedom group that Nguyen Van Hai helped found and which now operates from exile. She is due to stand trial this week in Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnamese government exerts tight control over the media and has little tolerance for criticism. If found guilty, Ta Phong Tan could face up to 20 years in prison.

“We are deeply sorry to learn of the tragic death of Ta Phong Tan’s mother, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, and send our condolences to the family,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “This serves as a shocking reminder that Vietnam’s campaign against bloggers and journalists exacts an unbearable emotional toll on the individuals involved.” EFF joins CPJ in extending our condolences and will keep a close eye on Ta Phong Tan’s upcoming trial.

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