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China 17 March 2004

Censorship stepped up to target blogging

The Chinese authorities have stepped up Internet censorship to include blogging, closing two sites hosting blogs - personal pages where Internet-users post their own comments on the news.

Reporters Without Borders expressed its anger at this escalation of Internet censorship that coincides with the opening of the 60th session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, at which China has a seat but without respecting its international commitments.

The site Blogbus.com was closed on 11 March "until further notice" for allowing a letter to be posted that was critical of the government. It was the turn of Blogcn.com to be shut down on 14 March.

"After closing websites and discussion forums, the Chinese authorities are now targeting blogs, one of the last outlets for expression still open to Internet-users," said the international press freedom organisation.

Blogbus.com and Blogcn.com allow Chinese Internet-users the chance to keep up a personal page without any technical knowledge. The sites are very popular, Blogbus.com alone hosting more than 15,000 blogs that have now been made inaccessible.

In its determination to track down Internet dissidents, the government began by banning cybercafés, apart from those run by major groups approved by the government. After that they set their sights on discussion forums, closing sites such as Observatory and Media on Sina.com. Co-ordinators then set about blocking more messages and there was an upsurge in warnings.

From there it was the blocking of major international sites Deutsche Welle and the Wall Street Journal. These latest moves against bloggers top off the authorities’ efforts to strangle web use.

Blogs have mushroomed in the last five years, particularly in countries that crack down on free expression like China and Iran. They are a tool used more and more frequently by journalists and that also allow non professionals to express themselves on the web.




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2 June - China
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