Tuesday, May 30, 2006

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Amnesty International and the Observer have teamed up to bring you Irrepressible.info, a campaign to fight internet censorship. From Kate Allen's launch article:
Amnesty International is again calling on Observer readers to join with us to take a stand for basic human freedoms. The internet has the potential to transcend national borders and allow the free flow of ideas around the world. Of course there is a need for limits to free expression to protect other rights - promoting violence or child pornography are never acceptable - but the internet still has immense power and potential.

Just by logging on to my computer I can exchange views with someone in Beijing or Washington. I can read what bloggers in Baghdad think of the situation in Iraq. I can find a million viewpoints that differ from my own on any topic. It is the greatest medium for free expression since the printing press, a meeting of technology and the social, inquisitive nature of human beings and the irrepressible force of the human voice. This is the new frontier in the battle between those who want to speak out, and those who want to stop them. We must not allow it to be suppressed.

We are asking people to show their support for internet freedom by backing a simple pledge:
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. calling on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of online freedom of expression and on companies to stop helping them do it.
We will use these pledges to urge the release of the growing number of 'cyber-dissidents' imprisoned for sending emails and posting their views on websites. They will be taken to the United Nations when it meets in November to discuss the future of the internet, and used to show companies that internet users - their customers - will not stand for a web that for some is massively restricted.

The campaign is called 'irrepressible. info' and we are launching it today in The Observer. It will harness the power of the internet to mobilise people all over the world to take a stand against repression. We hope it will spread quickly as more people sign up and tell others about it by email and on their websites.
Good stuff.

They've even gone to the bother of designing a nifty little button for bloggers that posts new censored material on your site each time someone logs in.

Their first campaign is a call on the Chinese authorities to release Shi Tao, a blogger imprisoned for ten years after Yahoo! handed over his particulars to the Chinese government. Regulars will already know the ins and outs of this story - the Amnesty campaign ought to further raise its profile, drawing additional attention to Shi Tao's plight.

Sure, there are similar campaigns along these lines, but for all its flaws, Amnesty pulls more weight than most and this move ought to be applauded. The surprising thing is that it's taken them so long...

Speaking of similar campaigns, Reporters sans frontieres brought this gem to my attention earlier today:
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the closure of online newspaper www.cursiv.ru by its Internet service provider on 22 May, three days after prosecutors being investigating its editor, Vladimir Rakhmankov, on charges of “insulting a representative of the state” under article 319 of the criminal code in an article headlined, “Putin, Russia’s phallic symbol.

Claiming the article contained “phrases of an offensive nature for the president of the Russian Federation,” Vladimir Galchenko, the prosecutor of Ivanovo (near Moscow), ordered a search of Rakhmankov’s home and office and seized his computer. Rakhmankov has been placed under house arrest for the duration of the investigation, expected to take two months.
...

The offending article was colourfully satirical about President Putin’s appeal to the Russian people to increase the birthrate and thereby defend the country’s borders. It drew parallels with a recent report by the Ivanovo administration that said the city zoo’s animal population had risen.

...

No trial date has yet been set. Rakhmankov faces a heavy fine or a sentence of six to 12 months of hard labour. As part of the investigation, a “linguistic expert” will be asked to assess the gravity of the insult to President Putin.
This would be funny if it weren't true. Hard labour for calling the President a pillock? I wonder how the ChimpyBusHitlerBliarHalliburton rent-a-mob would fare over there?

Speaking of chimps, it wouldn't be right to not join the merry band of bloggers who have undoubtedly already posted similar images in response to the Amnesty campaign:

"Alright! Let battle commence! Wine and... bananas! Bring on the dancing girls!"

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