Free Speech Roundup: Tunisia, Egypt, China, Thailand

In this Roundup:
(1) France-based video sharing site Dailymotion has been blocked, again, in Tunisia. (2) Egyptian blogger Abdel Monem Mahmoud, who has been released in June 2007 is facing detention threats. (3) In China people who are using China Telecom are unable to access FeedBurner feeds. (4) And Thailand lifted its ban on YouTube but Veoh and MetaCafe still blocked.

Dailymotion in Tunisia blocked-unblocked-blocked again

Dailymotion in Tunisia blocked-unblocked-blocked again
The fake “404″ error message received today when trying to access Dailymotion.

Dailymotion, France’s YouTube-like video sharing site has been blocked, again, in Tunisia. Still unclear if the government-controlled body, ATI (Agence Tunisienne d’Internet), through whom all Tunisia’s ISPs operate, is behind the ban.

On April 1st, 2007, Dailymotion was blocked in Tunisia for almost a week. Citizen Lab’s technical research director, Nart Villeneuve, who has been following the case, concluded that Dailymotion has most likely been blocked because it has been categorized by SmartFilter – the filtering software produced by Secure Computing, a US-based company, and used by Tunisia – as pornography: “It was blocked because SmartFilter categorized the web site as pornography, and, since Tunisia blocks the pornography category the web site was blocked. Some time between April 4, 2007 and April 9, 2007 SmartFilter removed from the pornography category.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the Tunisian authorities’ blocking of access to Dailymotion. “The blocking of the site may have been prompted by the posting of a number of videos on the political situation in Tunisia” said the organization in its statement issued on April 3, 2007.

On April 6th, 2007, following the ban on Dailymotion, Tunisian bloggers and activists have launched the “Unblock Dailymotion” campaign “in order to highlight the unfair ban and to draw the public attention to the aggressive censorship prevailing in the country.

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Egyptian blogger Monem threatened again

Silencing Monem? (Free Monem Campaign, By Malek)

Egyptian blogger and journalist Abdel Monem Mahmoud, who was released in June 2007 after 46 days’ imprisonment in Southern Cairo Torah prison, is “facing detention threats [again]. Both as part of the State’s cleansing of political activists from the Egyptian scene and also for reporting on torture,” Nora Younis wrote.

In a blog post published today, Monem wrote that the officer Atef el-Hosseiny – who tortured him for 13 days in Nasr City state security headquarters in 2003 – together with Ahmed Moussa, an al-Ahram journalist close to the security services, are orchestrating a campaign against him and organising for his re-arrest.

According to Monem, the al-Ahram journalist has published information obtained from police reports, apparently filed by el- Hosseiny. The journalist is accusing blogger Monem of being the Muslim Brotherhood’s delegate to infiltrate the independent al-Dostour newspaper. Monem is also being accused of publishing false information and using digital video cameras and cell phone cameras in his campaign against torture.

Tow weeks ago, on August 16, 2007, Monem published a very shoking video of Mohamed Mamdouh, a 12-year-old child who died as a result from being tortured at Al Mansoura’s Police Station, where he was held for stealing two packets of tea from a local shop.

China Telecom blocks FeedBurner RSS feeds

Feedburner Blocked
China Blockpage (China Telecom) Screen shot of blocked FeedBurner via

It has been reported that people who are using China Telecom are unable to access FeedBurner feeds. FeedBurner, which has been acquired by Google Inc since June, 2007, is the leading provider of RSS feeds, powering hundreds of thousands of blog, podcast and news feeds (August 27, 2007: Feedburner is feeding 535,003 publishers who’ve burned 913,490 feeds).

Moon-Blog, who has done a traceroute from China to check the block, found that the traceroute failed at the backbone level in China, blocked by IP. “This IP address is a main router of China Telcom. It’s confirm that the Greate FireWall’s IP blocking works,” he said, adding that “because Feedburner provides content from countless websites. It could conceivably carry some information the Chinese authorities think it shouldn’t. So they try to blocks it.”

tracert Feedburner
Trace Route FeedBurner done by Moon-Blog

This goes beyond blocking blog services like TypePad and is important to watch. This might be a sign of bigger trouble for RSS in China,” wrote Steve Rubel, the author of Micro Persuasion.

RSS and news aggregators, like FeedBurner, Google Reader and Bloglines allow Internet users to subscribe and view content from specified sources. In countries engaged in Internet filtering, RSS aggregators are being used to bypass filters and access content published on blocked websites.

Thailand: Ban on YouTube lifted; Veoh and MetaCafe blocked

The Thai Information and Communications Technology Ministry has lifted the ban on, Bangkok Pundit reported today.

According to The Nation, the Thai government lifted its ban on YouTube after a deal was made between the video-sharing site and local Thai officials.

YouTube “agreed to block any video clips deemed offensive to Thai people or those that violate Thai law.”YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc, was blocked on April 4th, 2007 following the appearance on the site of material critical of the country’s revered monarch: King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thailand’s ICT Minister, Dr Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom, declared to the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SAPA) “When they decide to withdraw the clip, we will withdraw the ban.

However, two YouTube-like video sharing sites, Veoh and Metacafe have been banned, according to Asia Sentinel:

Veoh, a site similar to YouTube, was blocked earlier this month after a user posted a risque personal video purportedly of the Thai Royal Family. ICT Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom has said that YouTube would be unblocked once Thailand’s internet service providers (ISPs) have installed cache engines that allow officials to block individual URLs instead of entire websites. Supposedly this was going to happen a month ago, but still today visitors get this Thai-language message when clicking on YouTube, Veoh or Metacafe: “Sorry [state telecom company] TOT as an organization of Thailand has seized the connection of this website due to certain content, messages and images that are inappropriate that have had a tremendous impact on the hearts of Thai people.”

Sami Ben Gharbia