The Listening Post

The great firewall update: Clamping down on VPNs

As China and Russia limit the use of VPNs, we examine repercussions for media freedom. Plus, police vs press in Uganda.

On The Listening Post this week: As China and Russia attempt to limit the use of VPNs, we examine the repercussions for media freedom online. Plus, police vs the press in Uganda.

The great firewall update: Clamping down on VPNs

Russia and China have both recently taken action against the use of VPNs, virtual private networks. VPNs enable internet users in one country to surf the web as if they are in another.

China has taken a selective approach to prohibiting VPN use – usually choosing to look away when people tunnelled through the “great firewall” that Beijing has put in place to regulate access to the internet.

Their new approach requires the support of companies like Apple, which has obeyed an order to remove VPN apps from its Chinese App store.

Russia has a more open internet than China, but it has just passed a new law targeting VPNs and other proxy servers.

In both countries, the pattern is unmistakable: the powers that be are out to limit – and, in effect, decide – what you can or cannot see and do online.


Eva Galperin, director of cyber security, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Sunday Yokubaitis, president, Golden Frog VPN
Ying Chan, director, Journalism and Media Studies Centre, University of Hong Kong
Malavika Jayaram, executive director, Digital Asia Hub

On our radar:

  • Turkish journalists both inside and outside the country bear the brunt of their government’s media crackdown.
  • Two journalists have been murdered in the space of two days on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, in separate drive-by shootings.
  • Al Jazeera’s future in Israel is in jeopardy after the Israeli government announced its decision to shut down the network’s Jerusalem bureau.

Police vs the press in Uganda

Among the many challenges Ugandan journalists face in order to do their jobs – political intimidation, harassment and bogus charges, for instance – police brutality has become a major concern of late.

The early years of current President Yoweri Museveni’s 31-year tenure saw the opening up of the country’s media.

In recent years, however, things have begun to change, with the government enacting a string of laws that have made the lives of journalists in Uganda increasingly difficult, and have had a chilling effect on reporting.

The Listening Post‘s Nic Muirhead reports on when journalism in Uganda crosses paths with policing.


Andrew Lwanga, former journalist
Robert Sempala, national coordinator, HRNJ-U
Asan Kasingye, assistant inspector general of police
Sarah Birete, Centre for Constitutional Governance