British Council The Daily Summit. News, views and links live from the World Summit on the Information Society World Summit on the Information Society
One pixel image
[Freedom of expression]

December 16, 2003

Back to blogging. Accounts suggest Sina Motallebi, the jailed Iranian journalist whose case we put to Iran's government, is blogging again. (Thanks Hoder.)

Aaron Scullion @ 09:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 12, 2003

Mugabe tightens net. New Zimbawe has more on rumours that President Mugabe is planning to exert a stranglehold over the internet.

Daily Summit has just heard direct from an ISP in Zimbabwe. We are told that the government doesn't yet have the capacity to censor internet traffic, but that may change soon.

All Zimbabwean ISPs are forced to use bandwidth provided by TelOne, a government monopoly, for their outgoing traffic (although they use satellite links for incoming traffic, as Zimbabwean bandwidth is so limited).

Our source confirms strong rumours that Chinese equipment is now in place, which "would be capable of full monitoring of all Internet communications if all ISPs were forced to drop the use of the satellite downlinks that they currently use, and partial monitoring if the downlinks were left in place."

The equipment is not yet in use, however, because the government is not sure whether it is competent enough to run it. " A single point of failure for the whole Zimbabwe internet could result in catastrophic loss of communications, so they are reluctant to actually commission the equipment."
David Steven @ 05:55 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Reporters excluded. Eight reporters were barred from the summit on Friday following a peaceful protest against Israel.

The correspondants from I'Lam - the media centre for Arabs48 (the Palestinians who stayed in their homes when Israel was created) - arranged their demonstration in advance with WSIS security.

They were granted permission to silently hold placards for 10 minutes saying "Free Israel", "Free Iraq" and "Stop the Wall" - the giant barrier currently being built by the Israeli government.

But when they passed through security barriers following the event they were refused re-entry. "The chief of security said that we were told there would be consequences to what we did and that it was illegal," Salma Khashiboum said.

"But we arranged it with them before the demonstration and they said we could come back in. They say that all our names have been sent to New York and we will never be allowed to another summit."

"We shouldn't be punished and treated as trouble makers or terrorists. This is a summit about information and the freedom of expression."

A spokesperson from the summit organisers told us that "the cancellation of the badges was a regrettable incident which was not intended and is the result of a misunderstanding in the agreement reached between the various parties".

Journalistic freedom has already been a controversial issue at the summit after Reporters Sans Frontiers were banned before the event even began.
Erin Dean @ 04:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
We'll tell you why. Ahmad Motamedi, Iran's Minister of ICT, has been in the summit media centre, talking informally to Iranian journalists and bloggers.

Farshad, editor of Gooya and Gooya news, challenged the Minister directly to explain why one of his websites is blocked (and is only available to Iranians via a proxy server sponsored by the US government).

"We want to know what the limits are," he told the Minister. "You should tell us what causes a website to be blocked and how you make that decision."

Apparently, the Minister accepted this argument and took the name of Farshad's website away with a promise to email him telling him why they had been blocked. He has said he will also provide explanations to other bloggers.

Farshad, who lives in Belgium, described this as a positive step - a step closer to an informed dialogue about Iran's future.

"We're on the verge of something big," he told Daily Summit. " Weblogs are drawing on the huge energy of a new generation. This generation has changed already. In response, the regime has changed a little. If we keep changing, maybe they will keep changing too."

Farshad described President Khatami's press conference as typical of an Iranian politician. "The Iranian government has a very bad habit. They deny everything in public. But after the official press conference, in personal talks like the one we had today, they are more critical than you are of the situation in Iran!

He believes the President has limited room for manoeuvre in Iran, but he at least understands the challenges. "One of his closest advisors blogs, writing about serious issues, but also putting funny photos on his site."

A response to this story from our Arabic site - plus reaction from Iran (one, two).
David Steven @ 04:47 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
Zimbabwe clamps down? News reaches Daily Summit that Zimbabwe has ambitious plans to route all email through a government-owned hub, allowing the Mugabe regime to tighten its grip on the internet.

Apparently, the necessary equipment has been purchased. However, technicians are nervous about installing it, afraid it will break down, Without money for spares, Zimbabwe could then be cut off from the web.

We were speaking to SW Radio Africa, "the independent voice of Zimbabwe", which broadcasts to southern Africa on short wave from its base in London. Their interview with Daily Summit is now online - it starts at around 6.40 on the Thursday 11 Nov, newsreel tape.

David Steven @ 01:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Is Ben bothered? Tunisia's President Ben Ali may be weighing up worries about the way his country treats journalists ahead of WSIS Part Two, set for Tunis in November 2005. He should take note of what Mark Malloch Brown, the top UN man running the organization's Development Programme (UNDP) told Daily Summit earlier today, in response to a question on media freedom: "There is no excuse for any UN official being ambiguous on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Andrew Taussig @ 12:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 11, 2003

Iran round-up - a long day, dominated by Iran and with lots more posting to come.

In a nutshell, we went to President Khatami's news conference, asked about Iran online, internet censorship, and find out what he knows about blogs (background).

Then we interviewed Iran's information minister.

Also - you can watch the press conference with Iran's President here - where you'll see the Daily Summit put your questions to Mr Khatami, just as we promised. And you can read a series of posts in Arabic too.

Aaron Scullion @ 11:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Iran's ICT minister confronted. How does Ahmad Motamedi, Iran's minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT), explain the huge number of websites censored in his country? "Sometimes mistakes happen," he said.

Some mistake. In a rare interview, Mr Motamedi claimed that officially just 240 sites were banned in Iran and that no-one was punished for writing anti-government messages online.

He had a harder time explaining the arrest of Sina Motallebi, the journalist and blogger held earlier this year.

For other reports of President Khatami's press conference click here, here and here.

We questioned Dr Motamedi over his claim that only 240 websites were blocked - he insisted this was the correct number, and that all political sites were available - saying only that "if they are political and mixing in some contempts against our religions and our prophets, we cut them".

We asked him to officially publish the list of the sites his government admits to banning - the minister said "it has been published for the private sector, and insisted, "all the press know what it is".

We asked him what punishments would be handed out to people who published material the government didn't approve of - Dr Motamedi insisited that his government only blocks the sites within Iran, and that "there is no punishment".

So, obviously, we had to ask about Sina Motallebi - the journalist and blogger arrested in Iran earlier this year.

Mr Motamedi first insisted he knew nothing of the story, and then said, "He has been arrested but not in relation to weblogs." The minister offered an example - "If somebody is a weblog writer, and kills somebody - should they not be arrested?".

We had one final question. Earlier this year, the government said it was a 'technical mistake' when some websites became unavailable - we asked the minister how such a mistake could happen. He pointed out that "technical problems always happen", but that he didn't know why they happened so often. He concluded - "sometimes mistakes happen" - and was ushered away.


Ahmed Reda: Many reports are saying 15,000 sites are blocked.

A: Most of the sites are cut. They have themselves cut it - Most of the sites that are porno and unethical are cut. We have not given any names for that - we have given them the message you cut them yourself. So anti-ethics and pornos, they have themselves cut it.

From these 240 these are sites against religion. They are contempting Prophet Mohammed and other religious principles of the people. What do you call them, political, we do not know what names you have for this, but for us it is anti-religion.

Some of them they have not criticized them in charge and authorities.

Ahmed: But I'm not speaking about the nature of the sites, I'm speaking about the number.

They have themselves cut this. Only we have given the names of these 240. But for the sites by their names it indicates that they are anti-ethical and anti-religious. They have themselves cut it.

Ahmed: How many political sites are you banning?

A: What is your definition of political?

Ahmed: Criticizing the political system and the political organisations, the executive branch?

A: From our point of view all political sites are free. No news agency has reported, for example BBC, CNN - most of them are political and they have criticised the government, but we have not closed them - they are not prohibited. But if they are political and mixing in some contempts against our religions and our prophets, we cut them.

Cara Swift: Will you officially publish the list of the 240 sites that are banned?

A: Actually it has been published for the private sector. Most of them are private, and all the press know what it is.

Aaron Scullion: What punishments can people expect if they publish websites you do not agree with?

A: Only we cut the sites - from only access from Iran. There is no punishment defined for them.

Aaron: There were reports a few months ago that one weblogger was arrested.

A: No one has been arrested. If you have any name we can follow it. We give some loans to them and promote these weblogs and sites when they are good - especially when they are in Persian.

David Steven: I have the name of the weblogger that it was claimed was arrested. Sina Motallebi.

A: Actually, it is just now that I am hearing this from you. This is not substantial and it is not in relation to weblogs. What news agency?

David: The Colombia Journalism Review. Associated Press.

A: She has been arrested but not in relation to weblogs. If somebody is a weblog writer, and kills somebody - should they not be arrested?

Aaron: Previously, some web sites in Iran were taken off line and blocked - when the government was told of this, it said it was a mistake. How could such a mistake happen?

A: Technical problems always happen. But I don't know how this is being increased. Sometimes mistakes happen.
Aaron Scullion @ 10:33 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack
Our space is open. At last, after a long search, Daily Summit tracked down Polymedia, renegade media outfit, evicted from their first home, but now resident in a Genevan cinema/theatre.

Harassed, harangued, haunted, but happy at last! And (there's no better way one can put it) these guys are weird...

First thing you notice: no telephones. But lots of computers, all set up to disseminate what they believe to be real information, the sort that should matter to people.

Polymedia has strong links to Indymedia - a group that has been in the thick of protest against the world order. Seattle, Evian, and now Geneva - the group has a record of reporting from the heart of the action.

Now, they have been forced to relocate to two bases. The Palladium is a brown building, from which thick black and blue smoke belches off the cigarette sticks of our famous journalists. A unused projection screen lies unused, and everywhere there are computers. Close by is the Theatre de la Usine - a larger space.

The Polymedians are busy - but not too busy to speak.

First, Annie, an academic: "We use the Usine for conference talks, discussion, and debates. And in the Palladium, we are experimenting with free software, sharing knowledge and experiences, and updating Polymedia web sites. Ours is a do it yourself movement, which is why I can't tell you my second name: I don't want to sound special. Here at Polymedia, people are simply trying to escape from the rat race. We simply want the freedom to live on our own terms. We are not worried by our problems with the police. We are used to being troubled. Its our sacrifice for a freer world.."

Then American, Sasha Chock: "We do not feel free with 2,000 military and 700 police at the Palexpo. To inform the people, we do not have to go through metal detectors and checkpoints every 200 feet! We do not want to be in a space of controlled information, where they held me up yesterday and divided my papers and leaflets into two piles. The ones I could take in and the ones I couldn't."

Chock's fellow country woman, who identified herself simply as Dee Dee concluded: "The difference between our world and yours is that this space is open. Yours is not."
Oghogho Obayu @ 09:34 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Only 240 sites! Aaron Scullion asked President Khatami : "Will you pledge uncensored access to the internet or publish a list of sites deemed unacceptable?"

The President replied: "The BBC, Voice of America and other American sites will not be censored in Iran. Many things that are contrary to the policies of Iran are available in Iran. Even opposition websites are available. We are exerting greater control over pornographic and immoral websites that are not compatible with Islam. And even some political sites that are very insulting to religion. But we are not censoring criticism. Criticism is OK.

"The numbers are very few - it's only porn sites. (Asks Minister of ICT for a precise number) Altogether 240 sites, the Minister tells me. The majority are porn sites, not political sites. We hope to have a world where morality will prevail and we will not have to censor any sites."

Aaron pushed Mr Khatami to justify the comments he made on Wednesday - telling the summit's plenary session that a key requirement of a knowledge based society was a commitment to "principles of democracy".

"Democracy without free flow of information, and without access to the thoughts of others, is not possible - democracy runs in tandem with freedom of expression. This does not mean that everything goes. I think many Western countries will not allow fascists or nazis or racists to say whatever they think. Stopping such ideas does not mean restriction of freedom - freedom of expression and freedom of thought are the preconditions of a democratic society - but at the same time, freedom does not mean chaos, or the absence of law and order."

David Steven @ 07:24 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Access denied - we have photgraphic evidence of Iranian censorship of the net.

(Other Iran coverage, here, here, here and don't forget to tell us what you want us to ask Iran's President. And we think you'll be able to watch the press conference here).

Cara Swift @ 03:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
He gets it? "Up-to-down approaches based on concentration have often failed everywhere in the world," says Yahya Tabesh, member of the Supreme Council of Informatics.

"Internet itself has had an endogenous growth. Nobody is the owner. Anyone who has something to contribute, remains in the net, and others without contribution, will be erased...

"Issuing circulars and directions to cope with this phenomenon only increases the bureacracy. No real work...

"I remember that during the first Paqhlavi, there was a law that anyone who wanted to listen to the radio should request permission from the nearby police station. Now we have radios everywhere.

"What has remained now: only history that is laughing at us! Web is the same."

From the newsletter of Iran Civil Society Organisations Trainingn and Research Centre newsletter, which also has an article on Iranian blogs (covered by Daily Summit here).

I am sure our vociferous Iranian readership will have something to say about this...
David Steven @ 10:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Firm and unbending. "Studio 7 will die. It faces death. They think we are sleeping; we want to see where they are going," a typically subtle threat to media freedom from Zimbabwe Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo.

But Wilson Johwa reports that cyber cafes are doing well: "Devon, a cyber cafe assistant in Bulawayo, says there has been an upsurge in the number of people, "from school children to old men in their sixties", using the Internet. He says apart from checking mail and searching for jobs, users visit news portals and read online newspapers."

Great context for President Mugabe's speech yesterday.

The President claimed that the information society was built on the same platform and with the same technologies "through which virulent propaganda and misinformation are peddled to de legitimise our just struggles against vestigial colonialism, indeed to weaken national cohesion and efforts at forging a broad Third World front against what patently is a dangerous imperial world order led by warrior states and kingdoms."

In particular, he accused the United Kingdom and United States of "using their ICT superiority to challenge our sovereignty through hostile and malicious broadcasts calculated to foment instability and destroy the state through divisions."

Even the concept of a free-press should not be taken at face value: "The quest for an information society should not be at the expense of our efforts towards building sovereign national societies. Our national society does not exist to serve ICTs or information."

"Both must be instruments that serve our society as it seeks fullness through balanced development and self-determination. Both must express themselves within the parameters of our inviolate sovereignty represented by our democratic national will which expresses itself through our national laws, our national policies and our national institutions."

"On this we are firm and unbending."
David Steven @ 09:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

Habeas corpus? Tibetan demonstrators today added their voice to those protesting new and old methods of information control.

The Tibetans are furious that China is inside the summit, lobbying hard to commitments to enforcing freedom of expression - when Tibetans can be punished even for reading the UN declaration on human rights or listening to a radio broadcast in their own language.

"The world has to tell China," Tibetan activist, Nima Changten, told us, "that ifyou want to be a respected member of the international community, you have to live up to international standards."

According to Tibet News, China is in the midst of a new crackdown, "imposing restrictions on the use of internet and jamming Tibetan language foreign radio broadcasts (Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Voice of Tibet). This new crackdown has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation among Tibetans wishing to listen to overseas radio broadcasts.

"Electronic mail, news reports and postings from the Voice of America and popular chat rooms, which serve as forums for discussion on current issues, are monitored and filtered out... This summer, a massive internet campaign from inside China started to infect computer systems of Western supporters and Tibetans living in exile."

Changten, meanwhile, highlights the case of the Panchen Lama, arrested in 1995. At six years old, he was then the youngest political prisoner in the world. Since, there has been no news of the whereabouts of him or his family.

Daily Summit wonders how you say habeas corpus in Chinese...
David Steven @ 08:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Al-Jazeeran persecution? The treatment of Al-Jazeera correspondents came under the spotlight today, with Al-Jazeera journalist, Abdul Kaddah, talking live to a side meeting from Baghdad, claiming that he and his colleagues were under constant pressure from coalition forces.

Reporters are arrested, and some are still detained, on a regular basis, he said.

Managing director, Wadah Khanfar, spoke of the criticism Al-Jazeera receives from America.

The station has been accused of being agents for the CIA, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, he claimed. But the channel still represent the voice of the Arab world, he said, opening up real debate for the first time.
Erin Dean @ 04:10 PM | Comments (1)

December 08, 2003

US and Israel murdering journalists, claims BBC reporter. The US and Israeli governments are actively targeting journalists, according to a senior BBC reporter. Nik Gowing claims that the media is now seen as "a real time military threat that on some occasions justifies our removal by the application of deadly force."

Journalists are killed as part of a deliberate policy that is carried out without remorse, he believes. Dead reporters are of "barely marginal concern" to the governments, while US and Israeli action "is already encouraging others to believe they can get away with targeting and eliminating journalists."

Writing in the Royal Institute of International Affairs' World Today, Gowing suggests that US targeting of the media is rooted in a "massive overall change in culture and attitude to international law, especially by the US administration" that follows the terrorist attacks of September 11.

There is a sharp clash between "assertive, robust policies and doctrine to guarantee national survival for a country at war by all necessary means" and "the new technological capacity of news organisations to report, question and challenge from any location."

"The presence of a camera or reporter bearing witness, often with politically inconvenient information about dreadful events at a critical moment, can frequently be seen as a direct threat to be swiftly removed... The argument for neutralising any media presence is compelling and uncontestable."

Gowing also discusses a "huge growth" in attacks on the media by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), quoting the International Press Institute which believes there is a "concerted strategy by the Israeli army to control reports on the recent surge of hostilities in the region." International outrage at Israeli behaviour has not led to restraint. Instead it has "hardened" Israeli policy towards the media.

Gowing highlights the case of Mazen Dana, a Reuters TV cameraman, killed in Baghdad on August 17. He quotes unnamed "journalist colleagues" as confirming that US troops deliberately fired on Dana, knowing he was an unarmed journalist ("they saw us, and they knew about our identities and missions"). Dana had previously been targeted by Israeli forces, he claims. He "had already been hit sixty times by what he and witnesses said was Israeli Defence Force (IDF) targeting in the West Bank."

Gowing discusses two further cases (the death of ITN reporter Terry Lloyd and the bombing of Al-Jazeera's office in Baghdad) where, despite initial reports, "tragic bad luck" appears to be "the ultimate explanation, however sinister the immediate assumptions."

However, he concludes that "the growing overall picture is that some governments believe they can target anyone in the media who bears witness to their operations and reports them. Worse still, they believe they have the right to do so without investigation, apology or charging those military personnel involved with a possible war crime."
David Steven @ 11:38 AM | Comments (3)

December 05, 2003

Reporters without Borders, banned from the summit and harrying IT giants, is also protesting the arrest of a Bangladeshi editor as he left for Israel to deliver a speech on the role of the media in Muslim-Jewish dialogue; defending a Romanian journalist beaten unconscious when investigating corruption; urging the authorities to investigate an explosion at a Georgian TV station; and expressing outrage at the death sentences passed down on the editor of a Burmese sports magazine and eight other Burmese citizens.

David Steven @ 01:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 04, 2003

Three Rwandan media executives have received long prison sentences from a UN Tribunal for inciting genocide through radio stations (Radio Hate, Radio Machete etc) and tabloid papers "filled with cartoons and pictures that targeted for extermination all Tutsis, especially women."

The journalists were convicted for the use of words alone, with the presiding judge telling them that "without a firearm, machete or any physical weapon, you caused the death of thousands of innocent civilians."

Human rights activists seem pleased by the verdict, despite the freedom of speech implications. Libertarians are less impressed.

David Steven @ 05:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Privacy or security? The Economist suggests you can't have both in its special report on internet security. Novell's chief technologist, Alan Nugent is quoted. "I'm kind of a fan of eliminating anonymity if that is the price of security," he says. But then we all know who he is...

David Steven @ 09:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 27, 2003

Private or free? The EU appears to be moving towards much tougher regulation of the internet on the grounds of privacy, following a landmark ruling upholding a Norwegian decision to fine a woman who had set up a website giving information to church parishioners.

According to, Mrs Lindqvist's mistake was to give out information about her fellow church volunteers (names, telephone numbers etc) without their explicit permission. She also revealed that one lady had injured her foot and was working part-time on medical grounds.

Mrs Lindqvist appealed after being fined over US$500 in a lower court. Eventually her case was heard by the European Court of Justice, which ruled "that the act of referring, on an internet page, to various persons and identifying them by name or by other means, for instance by giving their telephone number or information regarding their working conditions and hobbies, constitutes the processing of personal data wholly or partly by automatic means within the meaning of [the Directive]."

The Register also reports this story and warns that any business with a website should expect a crackdown from the European Data Protection Registrars.

Anders Jacobsen is on the case too, wondering whether this could spell the end of photoblogging in Europe - the new trend of blogging from a mobile phone.

"This effectively, as far as I can see, blocks photoblogging and mobile phone blogging (of photos of people taken in Europe or of any Europeans(?)) without a model release form," he writes. "End of story. Sad but true. It actually also impacts to a great extent about what you can write about non-relatives in your blog."
David Steven @ 02:02 PM | TrackBack
Freedom of expression under threat. A list of booby traps lying in wait at WSIS has been issued by the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC). The WPFC articulates a western free-enterprise view on freedom of expression, media diversity and the role of government in ICTs. The WPFC fear is that, in the WSIS/U.N. "one country-one vote" environment,the developed and richer countries will find themselves in a minority.

WPFC suspects include obvious ones like China which recently announced a programme of standards improvements and quality controls - taken by many to mean buttressing the firewall which insulates China's 68 million-strong web community (the world's second largest) from foreign influences; and Saudi Arabia which, according to a Harvard Law School study reported by the BBC, has - for cultural reasons - blocked up to 2,000 sites.

The Council of Europe (which represents 44 European countries) is also targeted for adopting through its decision-making body, the Council of Ministers, a measure to criminalize "hate speech" on the internet- something which the WPFC, like many libertarian groups, sees as potentially violating civil rights on the internet.

Is the web - unlike other media platforms - a place where "anything goes"?
Andrew Taussig @ 11:52 AM | TrackBack

November 25, 2003

Hijab news. Khadija Bin Ghena, established newsreader on Al-Jazeera, read her bulletin on 24 November in the same way she has done for the past five years; except, for the first time, she was wearing Hijab. In both Arab and Western societies few expect a female journalist, to do so, probably due to misconceptions about Muhajjabat (women in headscarfs) - generally perceived as subordinate rather that self-motivated and independent. Ultimately, the issue of Hijab has gone beyond religious and social dimensions, namely in Turkey and Europe, and, as such, it's something that should be discussed at WSIS.

Katia Nasser @ 10:29 PM | TrackBack

November 24, 2003

On the web, Caspar Henderson, writing on OpenDemocracy's Globolog, casts an eye over the United Nations ("a starved wee critter", whose "legitimacy and competence are as questionable as its finances").

WSIS comes in for a pasting from civil society - "a step back not a step forward." And there's this great quote from William Drake (who works here): "Basically, you have a bunch of dictatorships sitting around discussing which language on freedom of expression they can agree with."

David Steven @ 06:20 PM | TrackBack

November 16, 2003

Refused Entry to WSIS A row is brewing over the non-admission to WSIS of Reporters sans frontieres a civil society organization supporting reporters' rights to gather and publish information.

The Joint Caucus had already been angered by the WSIS Executive Secretariat's decision to exclude Human Rights in China - presumptively under pressure from the Chinese Government.

The official reason given for the WSIS Executive Secretariat decision on RSF is its one-year suspension from ECOSOC (resulting from incidents at a March 2003 meeting of the Commission on Human Rights) - that suspension, says the Secretariat, bars RSF from all UN gatherings including WSIS.

Countering this, the WSIS Civil Society Media and Human Rights Joint Caucus has expressed "consternation and astonishment" at a "procedurally" based decision, violating the fundamental spirit and principles of WSIS. The Caucus requested that the decision be rescinded.
Andrew Taussig @ 08:31 PM
So which comes first? Human rights, or freedom of information? It doesn't look like WSIS will give you both. As China resists any reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the WSIS declaration, reports that the EU's insistence on this leaves it able to "blame the failure of the summit on China".

But the ideals that power the information society lend themselves inherently to the provision of human rights, don't they? A statement distributed by the Human Rights caucus at last week's talks recognizes that human rights and freedom of information are "intimately related and hold the potential of enhancing each other". But is any country more or less likely to respect human rights if it makes it into the WSIS declaration? Of course not - so why can't we remember what we're here for?

Aaron Scullion @ 03:50 PM
Where's the progress? The summit is in trouble, as previously noted. Three more days of talks, designed to sort out gaping disagreements, have dribbled to a close.

By now, we shoud have something to really work with in Geneva - but instead, every time the participants get round a table, more tensions come out.

The draft paper optimistically calls for a "people-centered, inclusive"
information society - something which it wants to get from a hopelessly divided bunch.

There seem to be three main problems:
- Firstly, surprise, surprise, - money. The EU, especially Germany and the UK, and Japan are desperately against even a voluntary fund to pay for ICTs.
- Secondly, freedom of expression and human rights. China have successfully ambushed a complete paragraph on the "free flow of information" - not a good decision for the good of the world's media.
- And finally - Internet governance. China again seems to be causing more trouble than anyone else - it looked like governments would agree on just stating the need for further discussion in the declaration (a bit of a cop-out anyway), but China is blocking progress here, because Taiwan is a member of the ICANN government advisory board.

In addition the Civil Society seems to be generally brassed off with the course things are taking. They also said that terrorism legislation is now clamping down on the freedom of speech - an interesting swipe (especially at the US).

These are pretty complex issues, but Daily Summit is going to unravel them as best we can, over the next couple of posts.
Erin Dean @ 02:35 PM

November 12, 2003

American Approach - The United States commented on WSIS Draft Declaration and Action Plan saying "Information and communication technologies (ICTs) play a critical role in sustainable economic and social development. Access to information requires an environment that promotes the creation of knowledge and ideas. The realization of the digital opportunities afforded by the information society can contribute to a better life for all citizens through the promotion of democracy, transparency, accountability and good governance. The United States urges participants to use this unique opportunity to reaffirm and implement Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes the right of each individual to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."... but Reporters Without Borders, among other organisations, offers an interesting view of the American media after the terrorist attacks.

Ahmed Reda @ 10:49 PM

November 11, 2003

Exclusion - "Human Rights in China (HRIC), the only organization devoted exclusively to human rights issues in China, has been denied accreditation to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) scheduled for Geneva in December."... Is there any reason for this?!

Ahmed Reda @ 04:43 PM

October 31, 2003

The Christian Scientist is calling on the US to "defend the net from the UN."

In an editorial, it argues that countries such as China and Cuba may use WSIS to impose government control on the internet.

"Some governments seek to use national security as an excuse to control Internet freedoms," the paper writes. "Already, Cuba has tried to include language that would approve government filtering and censorship of private media.

The US delegation must ensure in preconference drafting that the final document defends basic freedoms for Internet users."

Meanwhile, a debate is raging within the US about how seriously to take the summit. The State Department's leading telecom official has told industry representatives that decisions have not been made on who will lead the delegation or what position will be taken on key issues.

The private sector seems worried:

"Some private-sector parties at Wednesday's State Department meeting questioned how U.S. interests will be furthered at the meeting, with one industry representative voicing concern about whether developing countries might unite on telecom-information technology policy principles at odds with the Bush administration, potentially repeating the dynamic that doomed September global trade talks in Cancun, Mexico.".
David Steven @ 11:18 AM | TrackBack

October 25, 2003

Tunisia gets it in the neck, from French NGO, Reporters without Borders.

They're campaigning hard on behalf of cyber-dissident, Zouhair Yahyaoui, who ran an online magazine under the pseudonym Ettounsi.

Ettuunisi was recently sentenced to two years in prison for "spreading false news", after being hung by his arms through three gruelling torture sessions.

How can Tunisia pose as a friend of freedom, but jail Internet dissidents? the NGO asks.

David Steven @ 11:01 AM | TrackBack
Freedom of Expression. The issue of freedom of expression in certain countries needs to be tackled seriously at WSIS. After all, you can't get information without someone being free to provide it...

Ahmed Reda @ 10:55 AM | TrackBack
Why the summit matters to Latin American journalists:

"Why all this fuss about yet another United Nations chat fest? Because Latin American journalists have learned through long and bitter experience that the obtuse blather issued at these international jaw-jaws is often used by their governments back home to justify censoring and closing newspapers and fining or imprisoning journalists."

David Steven @ 10:51 AM | TrackBack
Go back to the previous page Back Go to the top of the page Top
River Path Associates  - one pixel  image
River Path Associates  - one pixel  image
© Copyright BRITISH COUNCIL 2003 Powered by Movable Type 2.64 Site designed by River Path Associates