In the past few weeks, outspoken critics of government economic policy in two widely separated countries and cultures have been silenced in eerily similar ways.

A well-known Latvian economist was arrested by the country’s national Security Police last week for allegedly spreading ‘untruthful information’ about Latvia’s financial system via his blog.

Dmitrijs Smirnovs, a 32-year-old university lecturer, told The Wall Street Journal, “All I did was say what everyone knows.”

A Korean blogger whose consistently accurate predictions about the global economy won him a worldwide audience of more than 100,000 was arrested by Korean federal authorities last month and charged with two counts of disseminating false information.

In Korea, as in Latvia, publishing information the government deems false is a federal offense.

China tops censorship dishonour roll

China has been filtering and censoring the Internet in other ways since day one.

The parliament of the Chinese province of Jiangsu last month approved a law making it illegal for people in the city of Xuzhou to publish ‘private information’ (read by some as a euphemism for ’embarrassing facts’) on the Internet imposing fines of up to 5,000 yuan and up to six-months loss of Internet access.

The Chinese government launched a New Year’s crackdown against Web sites it says threaten morals by spreading pornography and vulgarity. Prominent among the primary offenders were global Internet giant Google and Chinese Web search leader Baidu. In the end, 19 major Web sites and some 2,000 smaller ones were silenced.

But it’s not just in China, former Soviet republics or emerging nations that this kind of thing is happening.

Australia’s national parliament has legislation before it, now, that would establish government controlled Internet filtering there. They may not raid and imprison embarrassing bloggers but how long before Aus Web sites that express anti-government views start disappearing?

Could politically-motivated filtering happen here?

The good news is, U.S. President Barach Obama has named well-known Net neutrality crusader Julius Genachowski as head of the FCC. Other Net neutrality backers figured prominently in Obama’s campaign and transition teams.

The bad news, in Canada at least, is that the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is currently reviewing its established Internet regulation policy — which, currently, is a policy of non-intervention. But the regulatory agency is hearing representations from government, industry and special interest groups, all of whom have axes to grind both in favour of and against regulatory tactics including mandatory filtering and censorship. The CRTC is considering proposals for regulkating New Media (Internet and wireless network) broadcasting and will look specificallky at the issue of Net neutrality in hearings set for this July.

What can you do?

That’s why it’s so important to speak out now against Internet filtering and censorship.

As the Hands off MY Net! campaign against Internet censorship points out:

To ISPs, we represent revenue. To politicians, we represent votes.

To be heard by either group, we must demonstrate that massive numbers of Internet users oppose filtering and other forms of Internet censorship. But we must also be prepared to move our Internet service subscriptions away from ISPs who support mandatory filtering. And we must move our votes away from politicians at all levels who support Internet censorship.

Visit Hands off MY Net! headquarters ( to find out more and sign the global petition against Internet censorship.

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