Report raises alarm over Internet rules

Kazakhstan and Georgia are among countries imposing excessive restrictions on how people use the Internet, a new study, quoted by an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report also quoted the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as saying that regulations are having a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

The report 'Governing the Internet,' called the online policing 'a bitter reminder of the ease with which some regimes, democracies and dictatorships alike, seek to suppress speech that they disapprove of, dislike, or simply fear,' the group said.

'Speaking out has never been easier than on the web. Yet at the same time we are witnessing the spread of Internet censorship,' the report said.

The Associated Press report also quoted Miklos Haraszti, who heads the OSCE's media freedom office, as saying that about two dozen countries practice censorship, and others have adopted needlessly restrictive legislation and government policy.

Among those are Malaysia, where a government official said this week that laws would be drafted for bloggers and authorities would not hesitate to prosecute those deemed to have insulted Islam, the Associated Press report said.

Haraszti cited separate research by the OpenNet Initiative, a trans-Atlantic group that tracks Internet filtering and surveillance, which pointed to questionable online restrictions in Belarus, China, Hong Kong, Sudan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and elsewhere.

The OSCE report says Kazakhstan's efforts to rein in Internet journalism in the name of national security is reminiscent of Soviet-era 'spy mania,' and it says Georgian law contains numerous provisions curbing freedom of expression online.

In the most publicized instance of a government crackdown, Kazakh authorities took control of .kz Internet domains in 2005, the report further said.