Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Arrest risk to bloggers 'is growing'

Growing numbers of bloggers around the world face arrest, researchers say.

A total of 64 internet writers have been detained since 2003 for highlighting corruption, human rights abuses and refusing to hand over sensitive information.

More than half the arrests were in China, Egypt and Iran, researchers found.

In one case, Chinese dissident Huang Qi was seized for comments condemning his government's response to last month's earthquake, which left 70,000 dead.

However, the researchers say it may be only the tip of the iceberg after discovering internet filtering and monitoring is used in at least 50 countries.

'We predict that the number of blogger arrests will rise in 2008,' says the report. 'The popularity of online blogs continues to grow and inspire more media coverage of arrest incidents.'

The research by Washington University in the US was published as it emerged Mr Huang, founder of human rights website 64Tianwang, had been detained for possessing state secrets. This charge is often used to clamp down on dissent.

'This is another illustration of how a person who is trying to help might find himself snared by China's state secrets laws,' said Sharon Hom of the watchdog Human Rights In China.

'This use of the law as a sword hanging over rights' activists contradicts the reported "new media openness" in China following the earthquake.'

I suppose we should be grateful that we live in a country where we can criticise Bush, Blair, Brown et al without fear of reprisal (c: