Filtering, denial of service attacks, withdrawal of content – censors use many different methods to silence news websites. In addition to drawing attention to these acts of censorship and providing the victims with legal, material and financial help, Reporters Without Borders has now decided to provide them with technical assistance as well.
Access the list of mirror sites created by Reporters Without Borders.
So that independent news websites that are targeted by cyber-attacks and government blocking can continue posting information online, Reporters Without Borders is going to start mirroring sites. The first sites to be mirrored are those of the Chechen magazine Dosh and the Sri Lankan online newspaper Lanka-e News. We urge Internet users all over the world to create more mirrors of these sites in an act of solidarity.
If a cyber-attack renders Doshdu.ru inaccessible again, as it was during last December’s parliamentary elections in Russia, Internet users will be able to access the exact copy created by Reporters Without Borders, http://dosh.rsf.org. The mirror will be regularly and automatically updated.
Mirror sites can also be used to circumvent blocking by governments. For example, the Lanka-e-News site, http://lankaenews.com, has been blocked in Sri Lanka since October 2011 (by blocking the site domain name or the hosting server’s IP address), but Internet users in Sri Lanka will be able to access the Reporters Without Borders mirror site, http://lankaenesw.rsf.org, which is hosted on another server with another domain name.
If the mirror is itself later also blocked, the creation of further mirror sites together with a regularly updated list of these mirrors will continue to render the blocking ineffective in a Streisand effect.
Reporters Without Borders will soon create other mirrors and urges Internet users who want to help combat censorship and have the ability to host a site on a web server to follow suit. A list of the mirror sites will be updated on this page. If you want to participate, send the URL of the mirror site you have created to wefightcensorship [at] rsf.org. We will add it to the list below. The next mirroring operations launched by Reporters Without Borders will be reported on the @RSF_RWB and @RSFNet Twitter accounts with the #RSFmirror hashtag.
List of sites mirrored by Reporters Without Borders
- Zambian Watchdog: Access to the Zambian Watchdog independent news website was blocked on the night of 24 June. The site’s technicians created an https version in a bid to circumvent the blocking, but it continued to be inaccessible within Zambia. The mirror site then created by Reporters Without Borders, ZambianWatchdog.rsf.org, was itself blocked with hours of going online. At the same time, the Zambian authorities have been waging an all-out persecution campaign against Zambian Watchdog’s reporters. To help end the gagging of independent news and information in Zambia, Reporters Without Borders appeals to Internet users to create many copies of the site.
- Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan’s leading opposition media have all been banned as “extremist” in the past month in response to a request by the prosecutor-general’s office. To help circumvent this censorship Reporters Without Borders has created mirror sites for Respublika, Vzgliad, Stan TV et K+ and urges as many people as possible to create similar mirror sites.
- Radio Erena
Radio Erena is a news radio station that broadcasts from France to Eritrea, one of the world’s most closed countries and ranked lasted in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. For Eritreans living in Eritrea, it is the only source of independently reported news and information in the local language. On 14 August, a pirate transmission blocked Radio Erena’s satellite signal. On 28 August, a cyber-attack brought down the station’s website, Erena.org. Radio Erena is once again online and on the airwaves after being unavailable on the Internet for a week and off the air as satellite radio station for three weeks.
- La Voix de Djibouti
La Voix de Djibouti is a Europe-based radio station that supports Djibouti’s opposition Renewal and Development Movement (MRD). It began by broadcasting on the short wave and then switched to being a web radio. The authorities have blocked access to its website within Djibouti.
Fergananews is the website of the independent news agency Ferghana and, as such, is the leading online source of news and information about Central Asia in the Russian language. Since 2005, access to Fergananews.com has been blocked in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, two countries that are on the list of “Enemies of the Internet.” The site has also been subject to repeated content filtering in Tajikistan and has been blocked in Kyrgyzstan since February 2012.
Sri Lankan journalists in exile write for Lanka News Web, a site that has many readers because of the freedom with which it covers such subjects as human rights violations, corruption and political misdoings, a freedom that contrasts with the climate of self-censorship prevailing within Sri Lanka. It receives 3 to 4 million visits a day from inside Sri Lanka and more than 30 million worldwide. The site has repeatedly been blocked on the government’s orders.
doshdu.ru, which covers politics and current affairs throughout the Russian Caucasus, received the Reporters Without Borders press freedom prize in 2009 for the courage and quality of its reporting. Despite frequent attempts to intimidate its staff, it is one of the very few independent sources of news about Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, the victims of a low intensity civil war. Its website is often the target of DDoS attacks, the latest of which was during Russia’s disputed parliamentary elections on 4 December 2011. The site’s content and all of its files were completed deleted in 2010.
lankaenews.com is one of the few independent news outlets in Sri Lanka, where a government licence is needed to publish news online. As Lanka-e-News does not have a licence, the site has been blocked since October 2011. Its headquarters in a Colombo suburb were badly damaged by an arson attack in January 2011.
How to create a mirror site
To mirror one of the sites on the above list, you can:
- Either install website copying software on your server and run it at regular intervals in order to have an updated version of the mirrored site (we recommend copying the content of the existing mirror rather than the original site in order not to overload the original)
- Or download a compressed file of the mirrored site (available for all the Reporters Without Borders mirrors at http://mirroradress/archive.tar.gz), decompress it and use ftp to transfer all the files to your server.
You can also use the autoblog script developped by Seb Sauvage.