Freedom House this week released its annual report on Freedom on the Net . Overall, despite the buzz about the ways in which social media, VOIPs, and other Internet-related tools have helped facilitate the Arab protests of 2010-2011, the report makes for pretty grim reading, including growing controls on online discourse even in free and developed nations like South Korea, as well as increasingly effective tools of repression deployed by autocratic regimes.
Southeast Asia does very poorly on the report. Some countries should not be a surprise: Burma, one of the most repressive nations in the world, comes out badly. But even some of the freer nations in Southeast Asia, like Thailand, rank very poorly: Thailand is rated as “not free” in terms of the Internet, which is the lowest ranking a country can receive. And Malaysia, which has had a vibrant blogosphere even as its print media remained controlled and stodgy, also has begun to turn. Some of Malaysia’s most prominent online writers have grown increasingly scared of government intimidation, and there is fear that the online media will become as constrained as the print and television media.