The chart above says it all. Based on a series of criteria including obstacles to internet access, limits on content, and violations of user rights, Freedom House has published data on where are the most free internet landscapes across the world.
As you can see, Asia runs the whole gamut of internet freedom. On one end is Japan, one of the most developed countries in Asia, and on the other is China, the world’s most populous country. It’s clear from the chart that the state of each country’s economy doesn’t have a clear impact on internet freedom, nor does the practice of democracy. Indonesia and the Philippines, which are both arguably in the similar emerging Asia category as Vietnam, are on the higher end of the freedom spectrum. However, Thailand, which is also a democracy, sits along with its one-party neighbors.
It comes as no surprise to some that Myanmar (aka Burma) is becoming freer rapidly, topping the chart on Score Change since the country very recently opened up its internet. It is now on a breakneck pace to get more mobile devices and the internet into the hands of citizens. It’s also started to allow its people to talk freely, and democratically elect such individuals as Nobel Peace Prize winning Aung San Suu Kyi, who was previously under house arrest. Remember, this is a country that shut down its internet in 2007. It’s come a long way.
On the flip side, surprisingly, India is experiencing the greatest decline in internet freedom. This is largely influenced by the terrorist attacks of 2008, which led to new policies that restrict internet freedom in the country. Eventually, this lead to the arrest of an Indian woman because she liked someone else’s post. The terrorist attacks were not the only culprits in perpetuating India’s new draconian ways either. Religious unrest and political conflict in 2012 have also lead to censorship of content deemed offensive and potentially violent. As the second biggest population in the world, and quickly getting on mobile, it’s unclear how these internet policies will affect India. In China, it has not stymied growth, but these are two very different beasts.
Just in case you want to check it out, the full report is here, and it’s a really interesting read for folks interested in the state of the internet. Especially since the report is over 800 pages long and has full detailed descriptions of each country.
We’ll digest this report more and give you the skinny on insightful stats and facts that will shed light on the evolving state of internet freedom in Asia.
(Editing by Terence Lee)