By Paul Majendie
Amnesty International marked its 45th anniversary on Sunday by
launching a global campaign to stamp out state censorship of the
The human rights pressure group called on Web users to sign a pledge
calling on governments to stop censoring sites and urging technology
corporations not to collude with them.
Arguing that online censorship is a new threat to freedom, Amnesty
claimed to have uncovered Internet repression in areas around the
world from China and Tunisia to Vietnam, Iran, Israel and the
Calling for the release of "cyber dissidents" jailed for expressing
their political views online, Amnesty said Internet cafes are being
shut down, computers seized, chat rooms monitored and blogs deleted.
"The Internet is a huge, powerful tool. We see governments censoring
access to the Internet or locking people up for having conversations
about democracy and freedom," said Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty
Launching a new irrepressible.info Web site to challenge Internet
censorship, Allen said "I call on governments to stop the unwarranted
restriction of freedom of expression and on companies to stop helping
them do it."
The world's largest Internet providers have become embroiled in an
international debate about Web censorship, especially in China.
Earlier this month, Yahoo Inc. said it was seeking the
U.S. government's help in urging China to allow more media freedom
after reports linking information it gave to Chinese authorities with
the jailing of a dissident.
The case was the latest to highlight conflicts of profit and principle
for Internet companies in the world's second biggest Internet market.
Web search leader Google Inc, has come under fire for saying it would
block politically sensitive terms on its new China site, bowing to
conditions set by Beijing.
The new campaign for freedom on the information superhighway was
launched in the Observer newspaper. In 1961, an article by Peter
Benenson in the same newspaper, calling on governments to stop
persecution, led to Amnesty being founded.
Corporations accused of collusion were quick to defend themselves in
the newspaper with Yahoo corporate communications manager Alex Laity
telling The Observer: "We condemn punishment of any activity
internationally recognised as free expression whether that punishment
takes place in China or anywhere else in the world."
Amnesty, which once relied on letter writing campaigns to bombard
governments with pleas to release political prisoners, now has 1.8
million supporters in more than 100 countries.
Adapting "People Power" to the electronic age as a tool for
pressurising international opinion, Amnesty urged Web users to sign an
online pledge which will be presented to a U.N. meeting on the future
of the Internet in November.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new
articles daily. And, discuss this and other topics in our forum at