03/14/2014, 00.00
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Beijing, Pyongyang and Hanoi win 'Worst Enemies of the Internet' title

On an almost daily, China, Vietnam and North Korea censor, monitor, block content and arrest those who step outside the official line. According to Reporters without Borders, the three Asian nations are easily the worst offenders in terms of violating freedom of expression on the Internet.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China, Vietnam and North Korea are the worst "enemies of the internet" around the world. In its annual report on Internet freedom, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders noted that China's 'Great Firewall,' Vietnam's new anti-blogging laws, and Pyongyang's 'Wall of Silence' are the greatest threats to freedom of expression in Asia.

Dubbed "enemies of the internet," the governments of the three Asian nations have sophisticated tools to control, punish and censor content that is out of step with state policy.

North Korea's Central Scientific and Technological Information Agency, Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications, and China's State Internet Information Office use "defence of national security as grounds for going far beyond their original mission in order to spy on and censor journalists, bloggers and other information providers," as evinced by almost daily reports from the countries involved.

Yesterday online news outlets, such as NetEase, and dozens of accounts with WeChat, the popular Chinese language public instant-messaging service, were shut down without warning.

In the latter case, some of the accounts were operated by well-known columnists like Xu Danei and Luo Changping.

In recent months, WeChat had emerged as an alternative to Sina Weibo, a micro-blogging site similar to Twitter, which has come under tighter controls, losing users as a consequence.

Indeed, the Chinese government abruptly closed down a large number of WeChat public accounts on the last day of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress.

Although this was done without explanations, the sites in question focused on domestic affairs and politics.

Meanwhile, in an effort to enhance freedom of information and expression for Internet users in these countries, internet giant Google is going to encrypt online searches by users in China.

This will allow free net research, which have been blocked so far by the authorities, allowing users to hide their point of origin.

For some, this is Google's response to revelations in the Edward Snowden electronic espionage case involving the US government.

Similarly, reports from Vietnam suggest the government tried to manipulate a trial against a famous dissident blogger.

In this case however, five Vietnamese activists refused to sign affidavits made up by the police with charges against blogger and human rights Bui Thi Minh Hang.

No such luck in North Korea where the Internet is only available to a small group of people, members of the country's ruling circle.

Under Kim Jong-un's regime, no one outside of this group of about 5,000 people in a country of about 22 million people has access to any Internet infrastructure, computer or mobile phone.

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