Burma 'worst country to be a blogger'

May 1, 2009 (DVB), Burma has been ranked by a media watchdog as the worst country in the world in which to be an internet blogger, following the wave of sentencing last year of bloggers and journalists critical of the government.

The report, entitled '10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger', released yesterday by the Committee to Protect Journalists, listed 10 countries in order of the extent of online repression.

Burma's internet censorship was deemed repressive enough to rank it below notorious violators of press freedom such as Turkmenistan and Iran.

"Governments are quickly learning how to turn technology against bloggers by censoring and filtering the internet, restricting online access and mining personal data," said Joel Simon, Executive Director of CPJ.

"When all else fails, the authorities simply jail a few bloggers to intimidate the rest of the online community into silence or self-censorship."

Private internet penetration in Burma is only about one per cent of total activity, said the report, and the majority of Burmese citizens are forced to access the internet in cybercafés, which have to obey government censorship rules.

"I feel the junta is preparing for the 2010 elections," said Vincent Brossel, Head of Asia desk at media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

"They are increasingly using more sophisticated propaganda, with new licences for new media, and at the same time they are keeping a very close eye on independent journalists and people who are related to the opposition."

Burmese blogger Nay Phone Latt is currently serving a twelve year sentence in Insein prison for reporting the September 2007 protests.

Comedian Zarganar was last year sentenced to 59 years (later reduced to 35 years) after speaking to foreign media following cyclone Nargis last May.

"I think the role of the outside media and citizen journalists in Burma is reaching to its biggest and the most important level in Burma," said San Moe Wei, secretary of the Burma Media Association.

Other countries on the list are Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Egypt, China, Vietnam and Cuba.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith and Francis Wade

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