When you log onto Facebook, you might expect to hear from long-lost friends or to see pictures from the latest family reunion. Maybe you follow Amnesty on Facebook or Twitter, read and comment on this blog, or keep a blog yourself.
But when you log off at the end of the day, you probably don’t expect the police to come knocking on your door. For people in some countries, that’s exactly what can happen. A 2011 study by Freedom House examining 37 countries found that 23 of them had arrested a blogger or internet user for their online posts. These encroachments on internet freedom – regardless of laws – come at a time of explosive growth in the number of internet users worldwide. Governments are clearly terrified because they know that information is power.
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Following the revolutions in the Middle East earlier this year, government fears of a “Jasmine Revolution” in China have led to dozens of government critics, lawyers, activists, bloggers, artists and “netizens” being arrested since February. Meet a few of those brave activists.
Liang Haiyi aka Tiny
Status: In detention on suspicion of “subversion of state power.”
In her own words: “When the country cannot protect a beggar, it cannot protect the emperor!”
Liang Haiyi was an early victim of the “Jasmine Revolution” crackdown. Her blog has not been updated since February 19, when she posted: “How far away are Nazis from us? Would dictatorship reappear in Germany? Secondary school teachers did a little test and got an alarming answer that history can be repeated so easily, and therefore pay a painful price.” She also posted a video that can no longer be viewed.
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Days after Egyptian authorities went after one blogger critical of the government’s policy on Gaza and human rights, they’re now going after another. Dia’ el Din Gad, a student blogger is believed to have been held incommunicado in the custody of State Security Investigations (SSI) services and at risk of torture since his Feb. 6. (Click here for more)
As bloggers have emerged as an active and important voice in promoting democracy and human rights, the government has responded, including Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Karim Amer. It’s part of a larger effort to shut down all public criticism of the government in the press and beyond.
For all of the attention given to the release of Ayman Nour, obstentively as a charm initiative in preparation for a Mubarak visit to DC, the arrest of Dia’el Din Gad is a warning for the Obama administration. This week, the Washington Post sums up the dangers in an editorial here.
To take action on the Dia’el Din Gad, case, click here.