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Dot Com for Dictators: Country Profiles

CHINA Leader: Hu Jintao Total Population: 1.3 billion Number of Internet Users: 26.5 million Freedom House Rating: Not free The Official Line: "The speed and scope of [information flows] have created a borderless information space around the world… the melding of the traditional economy and information technology will provide the engine for the development of ...

CHINA
Leader:
Hu Jintao
Total Population:
1.3 billion
Number of Internet Users:
26.5 million
Freedom House Rating:
Not free

The Official Line: "The speed and scope of [information flows] have created a borderless information space around the world… the melding of the traditional economy and information technology will provide the engine for the development of the economy and society in the 21st century." -Jiang Zemin, former chief of the Chinese Communist Party

Reality Check: Despite leaders’ glowing rhetoric, China blocks thousands of Web pages within its borders, encourages self-censorship among users, and blankets its domestic information technology industry with conflicting regulations. The country has also embarked on a comprehensive e-government program designed to maximize bureaucratic efficiency and discourage corruption.


MYANMAR (BURMA)
Leader:
Than Shwe
Total Population:
42.2 million
Number of Internet Users
: 500
Freedom House Rating:
Not free

The Official Line: A 1996 decree promotes "the emergence of a modern developed state through computer science" but forbids the unauthorized use of computers or computer networks.

Reality Check: Myanmar severely restricts freedom of speech and of the press, and Internet use in the country is minimal, limited primarily to elites. Harsh punishments deter the public from seeking clandestine access.


EGYPT
Leader:
Hosni Mubarak
Total Population:
70.7 million
Number of Internet Users:
560,000
Freedom House Rating:
Not free

The Official Line: "The technology that portrays itself to be global, needs to be truly so not only in terms of reach, but more importantly in terms of equal access and mutual benefit… These new technologies need to be geared towards the advancement of the developing world." -President Hosni Mubarak

Reality Check: Egypt is one of the few countries in the Middle East to forgo a coordinated Internet censorship scheme, while heavily promoting the use of Internet technology for development. However, recent arrests of Internet users indicate the government remains sensitive to dissenting opinion online.


CUBA
Leader:
Fidel Castro
Total Population:
11.2 million
Number of Internet Users:
60,000
Freedom House Rating:
Not free

The Official Line: The Ministry of Computing and Communications’ mission is "to prompt, facilitate and organize the massive use of information, communication, electronics and automation technology services and products to satisfy the expectations of all spheres of society." 

Reality Check: The Cuban government restricts popular use of the Internet to individuals and organizations that are supportive of the regime. In the future, the general public is likely to gain access only to preapproved Internet sites.


IRAN
Leader:
Mohammad Khatami
Total Population:
66.6 million
Number of Internet Users:
250,000
Freedom House Rating:
Not free

The Official Line: Iranian state radio has announced that "steps have been taken so that the entire population can use Internet services around the country."

Reality Check: Internet service providers have multiplied recently, but so have regulations. A commission dominated by religious hard-liners (and some intelligence officials) has recently been set up to monitor news Web sites deemed illegal.

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