Call to Bloggers
Steve Ballinger, part of Amnesty International’s delegation to the IGF, said:
"… some governments have sought to curtail this freedom. People have been locked up just for expressing their views in an email or a website. Sites and blogs have been shut down and firewalls built to prevent access to information."
I had the experience, during Saddam reign, of being blocked out of accessing even email service. A heavy firewall was preventing Iraqi internet users from a wide range of websites. It was like a kind of secret activity to pass information to friends & relatives about newly discovered websites; especially email service. One would change his/her email frequently making it not guaranteed to receive a reply, since one's email could be blocked at any time. Thanks to Arizona State official website which offered me, at that time, an email box for over a year without being discovered by Iraqi watch. So, I can understand the difficulties people are going through to access internet & to pass their words to the world.
Moreover, activists who use the internet to express their thoughts peacefully are being detained in some countries. Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities." Yahoo! provided information to the government that was used in his prosecution.
"Today, our chance to fight a new hi-tech tyranny" as Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty International, says in The Observer:
"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."
Vietnamese political dissident Truong Quoc Huy was first arrested in October 2005 with two other young people after chatting on a democracy and human rights website. On 18 August 2006, he was rearrested in an Internet cafe in Ho Chi Minh City. His whereabouts remain unknown and no charges have been publicized.
Iranian student activist and blogger Kianoosh Sanjari, aged 24, was arrested on 7 October whilst reporting on clashes between security forces and supporters of a Shi'a cleric. Kianoosh Sanjari is being held incommunicado at an unknown location and Amnesty International fears that he may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment.
Steve Ballinger said:
“Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege – but it’s a right that needs defending. We’re asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticizing the government."
“The Internet Governance Forum needs to know that the online community is bothered about free expression online and willing to stand up for it.”
If you are concerned about free expression online and willing to stand up for it, try to sign this pledge on Internet freedom called (Irrepressible.info). Moreover, try to spread the word to others; put a link to the pledge on your website, if you have one.