Freedom and the Net

03 Nov 2006

This just in: China does not censor the Internet. Nor does it jail journalists or bloggers.

We have that on the authority of China's delegate to the UN Summit on Internet Governance.

The un-named official told the conference in Athens last week that China doesn't "have software blocking Internet sites".

He added: "I've heard people say that the BBC is not available in China or that it's blocked. I'm sure I don't know why people say this kind of thing. We do not have restrictions at all."

"Some people say that there are journalists in China that have been arrested. We have hundreds of journalists in China, and some of them have legal problems. It has nothing to do with freedom of expression."

China indeed jails people for their postings online. Of the 61 cyber-dissidents imprisoned worldwide, 52 are in China (here is the link to the people who officially don't exist:‾id_rubrique=119).

The latest is Li Jianping, who was sentenced to three years jail on October 26 by a Shandong court for 'inciting subversion of the state' by posting articles about human rights and politics on the Web.

China also has more journalists languishing in jail than any other country - 31 out of 131 known to be imprisoned worldwide, according to press freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF). For the record, China ranks 163rd press freedom in RSF's global rankings.

A Harvard Law School survey in 2002 found that China blocked more than 19,000 Web sites. Authorities have only just lifted access to English language Wikipedia, but the Chinese Wiki is still off-limits.

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