Campaigning for a Free Internet on World Day Against Cyber Censorship

Saturday, March 12, 2011
Reuters: Customers use computers at an internet cafe in Hefei, Anhui province. Photograph by Jianan Yu
World Day Against Cyber Censorship was launched on March 12, 2008, by Reporters Without Borders to rally support for a free internet without restrictions and accessible to all. In 2011, CJFE is advancing the campaign for a free internet by highlighting two bloggers and journalists who have been arrested or harassed for expressing their views online, Hossein Derakhshan and Oleg Kashin. As a platform where the boundaries of communication are limited only by human imagination and access to technology, the internet is a valuable space for the exchange of information. The wave of demonstrations and protests in the Arab world since late December 2010 was dependent on online social media tools. Initially used as a means to organize protests, the internet became vital to accessing up-to-date news and information about events in Egypt and Libya, among other countries where journalists have restricted access. During the protests after the disputed presidential elections in Iran in June 2009, Twitter updates and YouTube videos became the main sources of information as foreign journalists were banned from reporting. These events highlight the growing importance of cyberspace as an important medium for broadcast and communications. But this space is increasingly under threat. According to a December 2010 report by the Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory at the University of Toronto that monitors and analyses cyber security and human rights, they have documented a burgeoning number of “next generation” controls that are aimed at creating a climate of self-censorship and fear. These include “the implementation of new and more rigid laws around slander, libel, and copyright protection, denial of service and malware attacks against adversaries and arrests, threats and intimidation of bloggers.” In March 2010, Reporters Without Borders reported that for the first time since the creation of the internet, a record number of close to 120 bloggers, internet users and cyber dissidents are behind bars for having expressed themselves freely online. Derakhshan and Kashin are only two of many bloggers, journalists, activists and dissidents who have been targeted for their views. If you believe that the right to free expression should be respected in cyber space, CJFE urges you to write to relevant government officials to protest the harassment of their citizens, and to call on them to uphold the right to freedom of expression and access to information in cyberspace, traditional media and all spheres of public life and civil society. Bloggers and journalists under threat for expressing their views online Hossein Derakhshan (Iran) is a Canadian-Iranian journalist and blogger. He was arrested in November 2008 during a trip to Iran to visit his family and was sentenced to 19 and a half years' imprisonment in September 2010 for propagating against the regime and co-operating with hostile states. Derakhshan’s lawyer has appealed against this sentence and is awaiting a ruling from the court. Read CJFE and PEN Canada’s alert calling on the Canadian government to use all available means to ensure due process of law for Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan (November 8, 2010) Read ARTICLE 19, CJFE, CPJ, Index on Censorship and PEN Canada’s press release condemning the excessive prison sentence of 19 and a half years handed down to Canadian-Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan (September 28, 2010) Take Action Write an alert to Iranian Charge d’Affaires Mr. Bahram Ghasemi, to express your concern about Hossein Derakhshan’s excessive jail sentence. Address Mr. Bahram Ghasemi Chargé d'Affaires of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Canada Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran 245 Metcalfe Street Ottawa, ON K2P 2K2 Oleg Kashin (Russia), a blogger and journalist who writes for the daily newspaper Kommersant, was brutally attacked outside his home in early November 2010 after interviewing an anonymous anti-highway activist regarding a controversial highway building project through Khimki forest. He is currently recovering from the attack with a broken leg, a broken jaw, an amputated finger and several cranial wounds. He believes that he was attacked for his writing criticizing state officials and groups affiliated to the Kremlin, given that his fingers were broken and his valuables untouched. President Dimitry Medvedev was quick to condemn the attack and vowed to track down and punish his attackers. However, no arrests have been made. Read CJFE's alert calling on the Russian government to pursue a thorough investigation into the attack on Kashin. Take Action Write an alert to Ambassador Georgiy Mamedov urging the Russian government to conduct a thorough investigation and bring the attackers to justice in a court of law. Address His Excellency Georgiy Enverovich Mamedov, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Canada Embassy of the Russian Federation 285 Charlotte Street Ottawa, ON K1N 8L5 Other resources CJFE’s alert against the torture of bloggers in Bahrain (September 10, 2010) Thirty-one IFEX members and 22 other organisations call on UN High Commissioner to support human rights activists, journalists and bloggers (March 24, 2010) Citizen Lab wins CJFE’s 2010 Vox Libera Award for their dedication to free expression and access to information online. Their mission is to undertake advanced research and engage in development that monitors, analyses, and impacts the exercise of political power in cyberspace.

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