31 October 2006

Irrepressible.info

An Amnesty International appeal, launched on Sunday, is calling on people who use the internet to sign a pledge supporting an end to internet censorship and oppression. Irrepressible.info is a web based campaign seeking the release of a number of prisoners of conscience, people who have been jailed for using the internet to voice their opinions. They are also calling on IT companies like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to do more to protect people’s right to ‘seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference’.

People like Shi Tao. A Chinese journalist who is serving 10 years, doing forced labour in terrible conditions in Chishan prison. He emailed an American pro-democracy site about warnings from the Bejing news authority asking news outlet not to cover the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Shi Tao sent the email from his Yahoo account. A year later he was in court standing trial for ‘illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities’. Evidence provided by Yahoo’s Chinese partner was used to convict him.

Shi Tao’s wife now endures frequent bullying and interrogation by the authorities and her work place is demanding that she seek a divorce. His parents have also been watched and harassed at work and at home.

Although cases in China are currently receiving the highest profile there are similar abuses reported in Tunisia, Israel, Vietnam and Iran.

I am adding a badge to this site to show my support for this campaign. The issues of (real) freedom of speech, oppression and censorship are obvious and important.

But we can not have a two, three or four-tier internet either. I can’t believe that we can have a global economy, that we can force all the negatives of capitalist systems on the world but we can not do the same with the positives. The internet is a great thing and it is important that people are allowed equal access to it. Particularly as it is now bound to progress and development and will increasingly become a mechanism for people to participate in the global market place.

The internet is one of the few media where people, ordinary people, can act, ask and access equally. We should protect that right.

Imagine not being able to stand up and say that you disagree with something your government are doing or saying, that it offends you morally and ethically. Not being able to alert other people to the injustice and violence faced by so many people every day. In the 21st century.

Imagine not being able to say you think Ruth Kelly looks like a lesbian. Yesterday I used this blog as a minor force for evil. Today I restore the balance.

Also, PKblogs provides access to banned blogspot addresses in India, Pakistan, China and Iran.

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