Rights Group Lists 'Enemies Of Internet' At UN Summit
Synovitz, Radio Free
The United Nations opens the second
phase of its World Summit on the Information Society tomorrow in Tunis. The
conference is expected to gather government officials from 175 countries, as
well as representatives of private companies and nongovernmental organizations
that are considered "stakeholders" on Internet issues. One NGO -- the
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders -- has created a list of countries it
considers "enemies of the Internet." Heading that list are China and Iran.
Regimes in Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan also are singled out as
repressive governments who are trying to control the Internet in order to
silence the political opposition.
Prague, 15 November 2005
(RFE/RL) -- The UN organizers of the World Summit on the Information Society say
they expect this week's three-day event in Tunis to include heated debates about
the future governance of the Internet.
Summit spokeswoman Francine
Lambert says delegates also will focus on how to implement decisions made when
the first phase of the summit was held in Geneva in 2003.
"There was a declaration of principles [in 2003] that
focuses on the major issues that should be the framework within which the
information society is to develop or evolve," she said. "And [also] ways [for
the Internet] to connect all the communities of the world by 2015 through a
15-point action plan. The idea in 2003 was to put the goals forward, and the
purpose of the second phase of the summit is to find the practical ways to
achieve those goals."
encompass freedom of expression and the protection of human rights in
cyberspace. They also focus on how to create equal opportunities around the
world for people to access information on the Internet.
Lambert says the
goals are based on Article 19 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
That declaration states
that all people have the right to freedom of opinion
and expression -- including the right "to seek, receive, and impart information
and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Reporters Without Borders says much work needs to be done before the principles
of the 2003 declaration are achieved. Julien Pain heads the group's section on
Internet freedom. He says the biggest threats to human rights in cyberspace are
repressive governments: "The most repressive regimes in terms of press freedom
start trying to control the Internet, as well. It's the case in China. It's the
case in Iran. Every dictator around the world is now trying to spy the web,
track down dissidents on the Internet, and filter the web [to prevent the spread
of uncensored information]."
China Tops List Of
Pain says Reporters Without Borders will present a list of
countries that are "enemies of the Internet" during the Tunis summit: "The
Chinese are, by far, the most repressive government in terms of Internet freedom
[and] the most efficient at censoring the Internet. They have acquired
technology from American companies which enable the Chinese authorities to
censor very efficiently the Internet and to block access to every political
voice which disagrees with the government's official position."
Iran and Belarus are on the "enemies" list because the governments there apply
Internet censorship strategies similar to those used in China. In contrast are
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, whose approaches to the Internet Pain compares to
those in Cuba or North Korea.
"Basically, there are two solutions to
controlling the Internet," he said. "The first one is the Chinese one. You buy
lots of equipment to control the Internet, but at the same time you try to
develop this new media because it is important economically. And the other
solution is the Cuban or North Korean solution. You don't even let people access
Pain notes that in Iran, authorities for the past two
years have been arresting people who post critical remarks about the government
on Internet sites known as weblogs, or blogs: "Iran is already censoring
thousands and thousands of websites. And now it is trying also to control
weblogs and bloggers because many political weblogs have appeared in recent
years. What the Iranian government is trying to do now is prevent them from
talking politics and prevent them from criticizing the government. That's why
many, many bloggers went to jail in the past two years just because of a few
posts on their weblog."
investigations into Internet usage is easier than in other countries because the
servers that provide Internet access are controlled by state firms that
willingly provide private information to police.
Last summer, Belarusian
authorities launched investigations into the Internet activities of a youth
organization called The
Third Road after it posted political cartoons on its
website ridiculing President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Third Road member
Pavol Marozau notes that Belarusian law also forces anybody who wants to use the
Internet at a computer cafe to register using their passport and home address.
Belarusian computer cafes also have security programs that record all
information about a visitor's Internet activity.
Turkmenistan's government as a repressive regime that has prevented the Internet
from developing. "The Internet is accessible only to a minority of people in
Turkmenistan," he said. "It is very similar to what is happening in Cuba where
only government officials and a few businessmen can access the Internet freely.
In Turkmenistan, if you don't work for a foreign company or if you are not a
government official, you won't be able to access the
Uzbek President Islam Karimov has spoken positively about
developing the Internet in his country. He says it would be impossible for his
government to censor the Internet: "I disagree with the opinion that information
coming via Internet has a negative impact on the situation [in Uzbekistan]. Why?
Because the Internet is like a huge supermarket where you go and buy what you
need. Shutting the Internet down is a silly idea. It's absolutely impossible.
Who tries to do so is a fool because an attempt brings no results."
Pain says Karimov is only paying lip service to the concept of freedom of
information on the Internet: "For Uzbekistan, we know that President Karimov is
making statements about how he wants to develop the Internet. But at the same
time, he is also well aware of the power it has and the threat it could be to
his own power. So he's been trying to control the Internet at the same time. The
security services in Uzbekistan are very involved in controlling the Internet
and putting pressure upon the ISPs -- the Internet service providers -- so that
they block opposition websites."
Daniil Kislov is the editor of
ferghana.ru -- a Moscow-based website that reports on political, social, and
cultural issues in the Ferghana Valley of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and
Tajikistan. Kislov says he is sure that authorities have blocked access for
Uzbek users to some articles on his website.
"It is not [entire] websites
that are not blocked," Kislov said. "For example, ferghana.ru, centrasia.ru, or
freeuz.org can be accessed. But particular articles are blocked. I guess that
the authorities -- or whoever is in charge -- see some oppositionist,
anticonstitutional, or antigovernment ideas in those articles. But it is obvious
that those websites don't have [an antigovernment] agenda."
UN spokeswoman for this week's Internet summit in Tunis, admits it is impossible
to force countries to allow freedom of information on the Internet. She says
steps to pressure repressive governments into allowing uncensored access to the
Internet are a matter of international diplomacy.
But she says creating
an international standard for Internet freedom is a step in the right
The Internet In Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, And
Pain, director of the Internet Freedom section of Reporters
Without Borders, spoke as well about the situation for Internet users in
Kazakhstan: "In Kazakhstan, many scandals were revealed on the Internet. That's
why it is a very important [form of] media in Kazakhstan because President
[Nursultan] Nazarbaev really realized that if he wanted to prevent scandals
about corruption [from being] revealed he had to control the Internet. We've had
many, many stories recently about websites which were harassed by the
authorities [in Kazakhstan]. The authorities first just tried to sue the
Pain also spoke about the situation for Internet users in
Afghanistan: "You can access the Internet quite freely now in Afghanistan. So
there is no problem. The Internet in Afghanistan is not censored. People are
using it more and more. And there are even people who have started blogging in
Afghanistan. So it is very interesting information. In Afghanistan, a few
bloggers are doing a good job trying to dig out and bring different kinds of
information [to the attention of people]. It shows that the Internet in
Afghanistan is developing well, even if, of course, it is a poor
Sam Ghandchi, editor in chief of the Washington-based
iranscope.com, said this about the situation in Iran: "Especially since the new
government came to power -- the government of [President] Mahmud Ahmadinejad --
filtering [as a method of censoring websites] in Iran has increased
significantly. Even groups like the Freedom Front [have confirmed this]. So
today [the authorities] use semantic filtering -- meaning that they have a
[computer] system to check websites that use words like 'freedom' and 'human
... Payvand News - 11/16/05 ... --