Elections in China, Pakistan and the US could prompt more arrests
More bloggers than ever face arrest for exposing human rights abuses or criticising governments, says a report.
Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for publishing their views on a blog, says the University of Washington annual report.
In 2007 three times as many people were arrested for blogging about political issues than in 2006, it revealed.
More than half of all the arrests since 2003 have been made in China, Egypt and Iran, said the report.
Citizens have faced arrest and jail for blogging about many different topics, said the World Information Access (WIA) report.
Arrested bloggers exposed corruption in government, abuse of human rights or suppression of protests. They criticised public policies and took political figures to task.
The report said the rising number of arrests was testament to the "growing" political importance of blogging. It noted that arrests tended to increase during times of "political uncertainty", such as around general elections or during large scale protests.
Jail time followed arrest for many bloggers, said the report, which found that the average prison sentence for blogging was 15 months. The longest sentence found by the WIA was eight years.
It acknowledged that the true number of bloggers arrested could be far higher than the total it found as, in some cases, it proved hard to verify if an arrest had taken place and on what grounds.
For instance, it said the Committee to Protect Bloggers has published information about 344 people arrested in Burma - many of whom are thought to be be bloggers - but the WIA could not verify all the reports.
It also noted that many nations, perhaps as many as 30, imposed technological restrictions on what people can do online. In nations such as China this made it difficult for people to use a blog as a means of protest.
The report pointed out that it is not just governments in the Middle East and East Asia that have taken steps against those publishing their opinions online. In the last four years, British, French, Canadian and American bloggers have also been arrested.
The report predicted that the number of blogger arrests in 2008 would exceed the 36 seen in 2007 thanks to greater popularity of blogging as a medium, greater enforcement of net restrictions, and elections in China, Pakistan, Iran and the US.