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Operation to ‘unblock’ censored blogs in Russia, China

March 12, 2015

The Reporters Without Borders group on Thursday launched an operation to “unblock” censored websites in 11 countries, including China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

RSF said the project, dubbed “Operation Collateral Freedom”, will be maintained “for several months.”

The group has created “mirror copies” of nine websites and placed them with hosts using cloud computing services provided by Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

“The countries concerned could block these services but almost certainly will not. Blocking Amazon or Microsoft or any major cloud computing service provider would cripple the thousands of tech companies that use them every day,” RSF said in a statement.

“The economic and political cost of blocking the mirror sites would therefore be too high.”

The countries involved include China, Iran, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Cuba and Saudi Arabia — described by RSF as the “enemies of the Internet.”

RSF publishes an annual name-and-shame list of the countries “whose governments censor the Internet and deprive their inhabitants of online access to independently reported news and information.”

According to AFP offices in Moscow and Beijing, several of the “blocked” sites were indeed visible, including the sites “Grani.ru” and “Ferganews.”

In China, the “Mingjing News” was available by using the mirror site but the Tibet Post, which RSF had tried to unblock, was only available on the homepage.

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Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.