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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        20  April 2011

Asean countries short on Internet freedom

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A report from the US-based Freedom House titled “Freedom in the Net 2011” gives poor grades to some Asean countries for the degree of free expression they allow on the Internet. HARE THAGE

The report labeled Indonesia’s Internet as “partly free,” citing concerns about the possibility of emerging government attempts to restrict online expression and content.

The Freedom on the Net 2011 report, released on Monday by Freedom House, gave Indonesia a score of 46 for its Internet freedom, where 100 represents the highest number of obstacles to freedom. That puts it with 17 other countries with partial Internet freedom.

The report measured conditions of Internet and digital media freedoms in 37 countries worldwide, focusing on developments that took place in those countries between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010.

Margiono, an advocacy coordinator for the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), said the report reflected the events linked to moves to curtail Internet freedom here over that span.

“That was the period following the passage of the 2008 Information and Electronic Transactions [ITE] Law and the proposed Communications Ministry regulation that threatened to limit Internet content,” he said.

He said the government’s order to Internet service providers to block content deemed offensive by the Communications and Information Technology Ministry was a stumbling block that resulted in Indonesia getting the “partly free” rating.

The choice to filter offensive content should have been left to users instead of the ISPs, Margiono said.

What was worrying for Indonesia in terms of Internet freedom, Margiono said, was the pending deliberations of the telematics convergence and cybercrimes bills.

“There are some proposed clauses in the two bills that might hamper freedom of expression online,” he said.

Indonesia’s ranking in the report comes in contrast to its rating as a “free” country in terms of political rights and civil liberties, as highlighted in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report issued in January.

Five Asean countries were included in the Internet report. Malaysia was also listed as “partly free” with an overall score of 41, while Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar were rated “not free.”

Estonia had the fewest obstacles to Internet freedom, topping the list with a score of 10, while Iran was last at 89.

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