BBC: Report on Blogger Arrests Obscures Most Arrests Are in Non-Democratic Nations

Bloggers are being arrested more and more as the importance of the Internet is realized by governments across the world, at least so warns the BBC. It seems an alarming report where community activists and democracy advocates are finding themselves being oppressed by government, arrested, and maybe even tortured because of their blogging. But, one little fact of the story is never really focussed on in this alarming BBC report on the release of the WIA report from the University of Washington. The fact that bloggers aren't threatened much in democratic nations has been glossed over by this report.

Unfortunately, a cursory reading of this piece would leave the reader with the vague feeling that people all over the world are being arrested merely because they are blogging, but that isn't quite the case. The way this report is written serves as a perfect example of a PCism more concerned with upsetting the tender sensibilities of tyrannical, undemocratic governments, than in reporting the oppression of its citizens. It's a PCism gone so far that it makes the report uninformative at least to the most important aspect of the reason these bloggers are being arrested.

Here is how the BEEB starts their almost whitewashed report:

More bloggers than ever face arrest for exposing human rights abuses or criticising governments, says a report.

Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report.

The BBC also gravely informs us that, "Citizens have faced arrest and jail for blogging about many different topics," and that "Arrested bloggers exposed corruption in government, abuse of human rights or suppression of protests. They criticised public policies and took political figures to task."

The report goes on to explain why this new threat to bloggers has arisen.

The report said the rising number of arrests was testament to the "growing" political importance of blogging. It noted that arrests tended to increase during times of "political uncertainty", such as around general elections or during large scale protests.

But one thing the BBC report does not do is fully explain what sort of nations are making all these arrests. Now, to the BEEB's credit, they do include one little line to let us know were some of these arrests have been carried out.

More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.

But, still, the reader could easily miss the fact that this threat to free speech is, for the most part, occurring in nations of a certain nature, nations that are not free and open societies.

In fact, out of the 64 noted arrests since 2003, only 6 were in various western, democratic nations. The WIA report notes the arrests in the west as follows:

  • 2004-France- comments about public policy = 1 arrest
  • 2006-USA- violating cultural norms = 1 arrest
  • 2006-Canada- no reason found = 1 arrest
  • 2007-USA- no reason found = 2 arrests
  • 2008-UK- violating cultural norms = 1 arrest

However, the reasons for these six arrests don't seem to rise to the same egregiousness as the arrests in the Middle East and Asia which were done far more often to stop criticism of the government and to squelch advocacy of democratic reform.

(Via the Christian Science Monitor)

4 unexpected countries showed up on the list: Canada, France, the UK, and the US. The French case was for “posting a blog about his local government’s waste and mismanagement." The Canadian example was for “taking pictures at a conference for his blog.” The British blogger allegedly incited racial hatred. And the three American arrests were for 1) terrorism, 2) child pornography, and 3) videotaping a burning police car during a G8 summit.

While some of these arrests in the west are still unsettling, they pale in comparison to the arrests in places like Iran, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Asia. Some of them don't really even belong on the list when held up to the arrests in despotic nations. The U.S. case of Josh Wolf (imprisoned for 226 days), for instance, was less a tale of blogging than it was his refusal to reveal a source of information, the same charge that has been leveled at other journalists. And the child porn case bears little comparison to the cases in Saudi Arabia and Iran where bloggers were arrested for criticizing the government. The other western cases didn't even seem to result in jail time or convictions of any sort thus far.

By adding the seemingly ill-fitting western cases to their list, one gets the feeling that the WIA folks also succumbed to a PC desire to find faux problems in the west to add "balance" to the outrageous oppressions of the Middle East and Asia.

Speaking of trying to seem "balanced," in true PC fashion, the BBC ended their piece on a ridiculous note.

The report predicted that the number of blogger arrests in 2008 would exceed the 36 seen in 2007 thanks to greater popularity of blogging as a medium, greater enforcement of net restrictions, and elections in China, Pakistan, Iran and the US.

It is laughable to add the U.S. to the list of China, Pakistan and Iran where it concerns worries of oppression during a time of "elections." No Americans will be arrested for blogging about the elections, but the same cannot be said of bloggers who chronicle political strife in Pakistan, China and Iran!

The fact is, the largest number of arrests will occur and will continue to occur in nations that are not free, open societies and are not democratic. To obscure that is to mislead readers from the true differences between the west and those nations that oppress their peoples.

Unfortunately, however, we continue to see this moral equalizing of the democratic west with the murderers and tyrants in non-democratic nations all in an effort to strike a faux balance and to avoid seeming to say to the reader that the west has a better way of life. But the simple matter of fact is that the west truly is better. China, Iran, Pakistan, et al, are horrible places filled with oppressors and murders instead of conscientious public officials. The democratic west IS a better place to live and for reports like this from the University of Washington and news coverage from organizations like the BBC to act as if that is not true is a disservice to us all.

Iran, China and their ilk are not just as good to their people as is the west. It's just that simple.