You can’t take democracy for granted

Living in a democracy is something just about everyone in Europe, North America and a large majority of countries around the world take for granted.

Basic freedoms – of speech and political expression, to name but two – are things you don’t normally think twice about.

We enjoy the ability to say just about whatever we want whenever we want. With tools like blogs, we can do this and be read by anyone, anywhere, who has an internet connection.

A BBC News report on the recent matter of the government of Turkey blocking access to YouTube in that country throws a spotlight on governments who try to control what their populations can see on the internet.

Some specifics:

  • In North Korea only selected government officials get access to the net and then on connections rented from China. It does not even have its own national net domain, .nk.
  • In Turkmenistan, access is denied to almost everyone.
  • In many other countries, access is becoming more difficult as governments recognise the potential influence of the internet. In Burma, for example, computers in internet cafes automatically take a screen capture every five minutes to monitor what users are viewing.
  • In January this year Iran enacted a new law requiring bloggers to register their sites with the authorities.
  • In China, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on building what is known as the Great Firewall Of China – a network of state-licensed internet access providers, and around 30,000 internet police censors who filter sites between China and the rest of the world.

Spare a thought, therefore, for people in countries where doing such expressive things that we take for granted – where they can – are risky, even life threatening.

BBC News | How governments censor the web

See also: Reporters Without Borders


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