Sunday, May 28, 2006

A campaign no blogger can ignore

Governments still fear dissenting opinion and try to shut it down. While the internet has brought freedom of information to millions, for some it has led to imprisonment by a government seeking to curtail that freedom. They have closed or censored websites and blogs; created firewalls to prevent access to information; and restricted and filtered search engines to keep information from their citizens.

China is perhaps the clearest example. Its internet censorship and clampdown on dissent online is sophisticated and widespread. But Amnesty International has
documented internet repression in countries as diverse as Iran, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Israel, the Maldives and Vietnam.

Another massive change since 1961 has been the rising power of multinationals, but some companies have been complicit in these abuses. So Amnesty is increasingly lobbying not just governments but powerful firms to respect the rights of ordinary people.

The internet is big business, but in the search for profits some companies have encroached on their own principles and those on which the internet was founded: free access to information. The results of searches using China-based search engines run by Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and local firms are censored, limiting the information users can access. Microsoft pulled down the work of one of China's most popular bloggers who had made politically sensitive comments. Yahoo gave information to the authorities that led to people being jailed for sending emails with political content. We do not accept these firms' arguments that it is better to have a censored Google, Yahoo or Microsoft in China than none at all.


From the article in today's Observer launching Amnesty International's campaign, irrepressible.info, demanding freedom of expression over the internet. The campaign works by websites, myspace pages and blogs spreading the word and undermining unwarranted censorship publishing censored material from Amnesty's database of sources such as Reporters Without Borders.

On An Overgrown Path was one of the first sites to highlight the Chinese internet censorship here, and here, and here. I fully support the Amnesty initiative, and this campaign should also extend to include the widespread censorship of internet content by companies and institutions using web proxy software which was experienced by An Overgrown Path recently.

* More detail on the Amnesty International campaign via this link.

And 12 hours later it is great to see On An Overgrown Path as the lead media story on the business page of a top US web news feed:

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1 comment:

Pliable said...

I came across the following statement of editorial policy on the website Catalyst, UK magazine of the UK's Commission for Racial Equality (http://www.catalystmagazine.org/default.html). It sets a bench-mark that any blog, or website, should aim for:

Catalyst’s role is to kick-start discussions, new ideas and arguments about race, identity, society, citizenship, culture and community – about where we are now, and where we might be going in the future. It encourages frank and open discussion, and engages with views across the political spectrum, to shed light on particular issues.

Its remit is to publish journalism which is clear, well-written and accessible, free from jargon and full of interesting, thought-provoking comment and analysis. It covers a broad range of topics, from policy and the law, to economics, politics, sport, science, culture and the arts, and is aimed at a broad and general audience.

Catalyst complies with British law, including the Human Rights Act, 1998, which sets out the right to freedom of expression. Catalyst will not give space to incitement to hatred against any group of people but, within the provisions of the law, will not prohibit reasoned argument, factual reporting, fair comment including satire, or the temperate expression of any opinion on the grounds that any person or group may find it offensive or insulting. We understand that this is not always straightforward, and therefore we use our editorial judgment to maintain consistency with our principles. We are committed to exercising this judgment responsibly.