Our favorite media watchdog – Reporters Without Borders –famously publishes an elite list on which few people would want to be included. It’s a list of “Enemies of the Internet:” Countries whose governments are uncomfortable with the information flows that come from this history-altering technology.
What’s particularly interesting to Internet watchers is who gets moved onto the notorious list and who gets off of it – a periodic decision by Reporters Without Borders that always catches international attention. The distinguished non-profit’s latest assessment puts Bahrain — and Belarus – onto the Enemies List.
They join the other countries viewed as restricting Internet freedom the most: Burma (Myanmar), China, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and North Korea.
The final two entries on that list are particularly interesting. Developing Vietnam is struggling between liberalizing its economy while maintaining Communist Party hegemony. But the Party will always want to control the flow of information – but it’s an innate reflex that can work against economic growth. Consider the classic case of North Korea, where economic growth has been all but absent for ages. It offers a clear example of the consequences of cutting yourself off from the outside world, in part by cutting down (if not unplugging) access to the Internet. The Reporters Without Borders 2012 List offers an invaluable cautionary tale.
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