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Friday, February 27, 2009

An opening in cyberspace closes

BANGKOK - When a state-linked Cambodian Internet service provider (ISP) blocked access this month to a critical non-governmental organization report detailing the government's alleged mismanagement of natural and energy resources, the censorship closed the loop on the region's fast-closing cyberspace.

The Cambodian government has prioritized improving its Internet controls and legislation, despite the fact less than 0.3% of the population is online, one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. The recent bust of an alleged terror plot against the government revealed that authorities had capability to hack intosuspects' - and perhaps perceived other adversaries' - e-mail accounts.

It wasn't long ago that Asia's Internet was being heralded as an inexorable force for democratic change across the predominantly authoritarian-run region. Rising Internet penetration rates and the proliferation of websites that provided alternative news and critical views, particularly in countries where the state had long dominated information flows, marked substantial democratic gains.

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