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Amnesty International

Amnesty International calls for governments and companies to protect internet freedom

Monday, October 30, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: Amnesty International, bloggers, internet freedom

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(NewsTarget) A press release on the Amnesty International web site says that world governments and companies are keeping citizens uninformed by restricting and censoring internet content, so at the 2006 Internet Governance Forum that starts today in Athens, Greece, the group is calling on these governments and companies to reverse this trend.

One of the ways Amnesty International is already fighting the problem is by promoting the pledge of internet freedom, which reads: "I believe the Internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference. I call on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet - and on companies to stop helping them do it."

So far, more than 43,000 people have signed the pledge, and Amnesty International is taking other avenues to protect internet freedom, such as the proposed Global Online Freedom Act, which would establish a U.S. policy to protect internet freedom and "prohibit any United States businesses from cooperating with officials of Internet-restricting countries in effecting the political censorship of online content." However, the press release notes that these moves will not be enough to ensure internet freedom in all states and non-U.S. companies, so an effort must be made to establish internet freedoms as globally recognized as human rights are.

The press release cites specific examples of violations of internet freedom by world governments and associated companies. It notes that Yahoo, through Chinese partner Alibaba, gave the Chinese government confidential user information that was used to convict and imprison journalists and agreed to censor information for the government. The press release points out that Microsoft and Google have mostly followed suit in China.

The release also recounts the cases of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, Tunisian lawyer Mohammed Abbou, and a Vietnamese political dissident named Truong Quoc Huy, all of whom were imprisoned for writing about or discussing human rights on the internet, according to the release.

Amnesty International considers Shi Tao, Mohammed Abbou, Truong Quoc Huy and many others to be prisoners of conscience," the release states. "We are deeply concerned about the participation of both governments and businesses in the repression of fundamental human rights through their control of the Internet."

Now, Amnesty International is calling on world governments to reverse this trend through specific steps: First, the immediate and unconditional release of anyone imprisoned for expressing online news and peaceful opinions; second, the cessation of any harassment and threats against people who wish to communicate via the internet; third, to allow people to use the internet without violating rights to information, freedom of expression and privacy; and fourth, to make local and domestic internet freedom laws parallel with international human rights laws.

The press release also states that IT and telecommunications companies should publicly commit to honoring and supporting human rights; be transparent about any censorship they undertake and what laws they are following; make every legal effort to avoid complying with any request that would violate a person's right to privacy or expression; and to take the lead in protecting and promoting human rights with the assistance of governments and society.

Consumer health advocate and health freedom writer Mike Adams said that internet users must also fight to protect their freedom on the internet.

"Internet freedom is being assaulted by corporations and governments," Adams said. "I urge members of the internet community to take steps now to exercise our shared freedoms through blogs and websites. Use the power of the internet to let your voice be heard."


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