Across Southeast Asia, governments have curtailed Internet freedoms through increasingly restrictive practices, including prohibitive laws, heightened surveillance and censorship, and threats of imprisonment on various national security-related offenses. But Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam--countries that once had some of the region's most promising online openings and vibrant blogospheres--stand out as the most egregious backsliders due to official crackdowns.
Through critical postings and commentaries, online journalists in the three countries had challenged officialdom's traditional control over the mainstream media. Their independent reporting opened once untouchable institutions and largely unaccountable politicians to more public scrutiny and criticism. It wasn't until the latter part of the previous decade that officials came to view Internet-delivered news as a threat to their authority.