New Signals that Governments Might Crack Down on the Web
Swiftly moving events in Tunisia continue to challenge headlines’ ability to keep up. And now come signs that what’s happening there may be presenting challenges in the minds of leaders of neighboring states, and elsewhere as well.
At the recent Arab Economic Summit held in Egypt, the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, warned that other Arab nations may not be too far from the turmoil of Tunisia:
“The recent events in Tunisia are an example of big social shocks that many Arab societies are exposed to,” he said. “It is on everyone’s mind that the Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and a general slide in indicators.”
Others need more convincing. Stephen Walt, writing in Foreign Policy, sees little or no historic evidence that the “contagion” of revolt spreads across borders…despite what he calls the “obvious warning signs” Tunisia presents to other Arab leaders:
“Tunisia’s experience may not look very attractive over the next few weeks or months, especially if the collapse of the government leads to widespread anarchy, violence and economic hardship. If that is the case, then restive populations elsewhere may be less inclined to challenge unpopular leaders, reasoning that ‘hey, our government sucks, but it’s better than no government at all.’”
And it isn’t just Arab leaders that may be nervous.
In a speech last week, long-time Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sounded off about unnamed foreign sources he suggests are using the Internet to stir up unrest. In his address Hun Sen warned:
“There is a guy saying that Cambodia should foment a Tunisia style-revolt. I would like to send you a message that if you provoke or foment a Tunisia style-revolt, I will close the door to beat the dog this time,” he said, adding he would “…beat on the head…” of anyone using the web to incite revolt.
And now a new wrinkle: VOA’s Bun Tharum, in his superb “Musings on Cambodia” blog, has been tracking what might be efforts by the Cambodian government to restrict Web-speech or access to the Internet…at least parts of it.
KI Media is a dissident blog run on Google’s popular “blogspot” platform from outside of Cambodia. Long a source of irritation to the government of Hun Sen, access to the site was recently cut off by Cambodia’s three largest ISP’s. Bun Tharum writes:
“From Tuesday afternoon, web users with service providers AngkorNet, Ezecom and Metfone had no access to KI Media specifically. Users for Ezecom and Metfone also had no access to any blogspot.com platform.
“That means that some bloggers using Google’s Blogger platform have been unable to connect to their sites.
“’Dat’s it,’ tweeted sreisaat, on Thursday. ‘[S]till no accesss to blogspot sites. I’ve a feeling I’ve been singled out for sum reason.’ Her blog, “The Sreisaat Adventures,” is hosted by Blogger and chronicles the everyday life of a Cambodian wife.”
So far a number of Cambodian government officials have denied any involvement in blocking KI or blogspot more generally, while the ISPs have sent conflicting signals – strong denials from one, silence from another, and suggestions a non-committal statement from the third.