Sunday, 29 October 2006

Stand up for Internet freedom

Many governments are working to close down freedom of expression on the Internet, often with the help of Internet companies that built their names (and fortunes) on the free exchange of information.

Websites are blocked, search engines reigned in, discussions monitored, and journalists, bloggers and activists are arrested for exchanging information online.

Amnesty International and The Observer newspaper have created the campaign, to defend freedom of expression on the Internet and put pressure on those same governments and companies.

Sign the pledge
You would not be able to read this blog without freedom of the Internet. Many people around the world won't be able to read it at all, or they may not be safe if they do.

I encourage you to join Amnesty International's campaign and sign the pledge on Internet freedom.

The pledge puts it simply: "People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference."

Growing repression online
The website points out that "efforts to try and control the Internet are growing".

"Internet repression is reported in countries like China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. People are persecuted and imprisoned simply for criticising their government, calling for democracy and greater press freedom, or exposing human rights abuses, online."

The campaign notes the complicity -- and active involvement -- of IT companies that "have helped build the systems that enable surveillance and censorship to take place".

"Yahoo! have supplied email users’ private data to the Chinese authorities, helping to facilitate cases of wrongful imprisonment. Microsoft and Google have both complied with government demands to actively censor Chinese users of their services.

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It is one of the most precious of all rights. We should fight to protect it.

The future of (freedom on) the Internet
Amnesty International is campaigning ahead of the UN's Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on the future of the Internet, in Athens this week.

Steve Ballinger, part of Amnesty International’s IGF delegation, said: "We bring with us to the Internet Governance Forum the voices of thousands of people who share our concerns and who have supported Amnesty's campaign.

"We are calling on governments to release prisoners who are held just for expressing their peaceful views online, and to stop unwarranted censorship of internet sites and searches."

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