Global Increase of Arrests and Violence over Online Activities

Freedom House issued a report providing that the number of countries in which Internet users have been subjected to arrest and violence for their posts hit a record high between June 2020 and May 2021.

The report indicated that this year, Internet users were physically attacked for their activities on the Internet in 41 countries, noting that it was the highest record since the beginning of the use of the network.

Examples include the arrests of dozens of Emirati tweeters and bloggers by the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinian Authority’s arrest and abuse of many citizens and journalists in its prisons in various cities of the West Bank, and the Egyptian authorities’ arrest of many citizens, especially University students. A Bangladeshi student was hospitalized after being beaten on suspicion of “anti-government activities” on social networks, as well as the murder of a Mexican journalist for posting a video on Facebook accusing a gang of murder.

The report added that in 56 of the 70 countries, 80% of citizens were arrested or convicted for their digital activities.

The report indicated that digital rights declined globally for the 11th consecutive year. The report criticized the military council, which seized power in Myanmar in February, for cutting off the internet, blocking social media and forcing tech companies to hand over personal data.

Internet shutdowns were also noted before voting in Uganda in January, and after the controversial presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020. Twenty countries had blocked their citizens’ access to the Internet during the year.

The country with the least respect for digital freedoms and the most repressive of dissenting internet users was China, followed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and many other countries.

Iceland topped the list of countries sponsoring internet freedom, followed by Estonia and Costa Rica, the first country to make internet access a basic right.

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