The number of people being arrested for expressing their views online is soaring.

According to an annual report by the University of Washington, three times as many people were arrested in 2007 for blogging about political issues than in 2006.

Since 2003, 64 people have been arrested for what they have published in their blog, and, with elections coming up in China, Pakistan and the US, the report says arrests could rocket.

Over half of the arrests in the last five years were made in China, Egypt and Iran, claims the World Information Access (WIA) report.

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 was 8 years.

The report, added, however, that there could be far more arrests than it records as it had sometimes proved hard to verify if an arrest had taken place and on what grounds.

It pointed to allegations of the arrest of 344 people in Burma - many of whom could be bloggers - but it could not verify this.