Friday, June 27, 2008

Freedom to blog

This isn't a political blog, but I've written about freedom of expression before and as a blogger, I care quite a bit about the freedom to blog. So I find it deeply upsetting that in numerous countries bloggers are in fact in jail for airing their opinions. As an article in this week's Economist explains:
Security officials who once scoffed at blogs, or ignored them completely in favour of bigger and more conspicuous targets, are now bringing their legal and other arsenals to bear. A common move is to expand media, information and electoral laws to include blogs. Last year, for example, Uzbekistan changed its media law to count all websites as “mass media”—a category subject to Draconian restriction. Belarus now requires owners of internet caf├ęs to keep a log of all websites that their customers visit: in a country where internet access at home is still rare and costly, that is a big hurdle for the active netizen. Earlier this year Indonesia passed a law that made it much riskier to publish controversial opinions online. A Brazilian court has ruled that bloggers, like other media, must abide by restrictions imposed by the law on elections.

The chilling effect of such moves is intensified when governments back them up with imprisonment. From Egypt to Malaysia to Saudi Arabia to Singapore, bloggers have in recent months found themselves behind bars for posting materials that those in power dislike. The most recent Worldwide Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, a lobby group, estimates their number at a minimum of 64.

For those of you who haven't read it, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty provides an overwhelmingly strong case for freedom of expression. As Mill put it:
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

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