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[Human rights]

December 12, 2003

Future, Bright. Wear Shades. The Tunisian Foreign Minister Mr Habib Ben Yahia told the Daily Summit that he is "fully optimistic" about the second phase of WSIS to be held in his country in November 2005.

It would, he promised, be the "crowning of this process".

But is Tunisia an appropriate to hold a summit which should have freedom of expression?

"We have a lot at stake," the Foreign Minister told us. "We want to come out of 2005 with a consensus and a vision of what is the of Information Technology for our society."

Critics of Tunisia are not just interested in human rights, but have a hidden agenda, he suggested. However, he admitted that Tunisia still has problems it needs to address.

As a relatively new democracy, human rights pose formidable task and challenge for Tunisia, he explained. "We are not perfect, nobody's perfect in this world."

Journalists should come to Tunisia to see for themselves, he said. They would discover many websites and magazines, offering a variety of opinions. But also some of the best hotels in the world - and more sunshine than here in Geneva.
Cara Swift @ 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

Free goodies. The Tunisian government are marketing themselves heavily in Geneva, almost as if they're trying to gather goodwill for the next stage of the Summit. Daily Summit has just been handed a large goodie bag, with a free t-shirt, hat, a badge and a key ring. As well as a CD of photos of Tunisia. Can't see how free stuff is going to make this go away.

Aaron Scullion @ 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

December 05, 2003

Official reaction in Nigeria to Human Rights Watch's latest paper, which claims that "Nigerians still cannot express themselves freely without fear of grave consequences" has been swift and indignant.

Earlier this week, Ms Remi Oyo, Special Assistant to the President (Media) attacked the HRW's decision to release Nigeria: Freedom of Expression Under Attack on December 2nd (neatly missing World AIDS Day) as a ploy to stir up trouble at CHOGM in Abuja this week.

Moreover, Ms Oyo vehemently defended the Obasanjo administration's record on freedom of speech, claiming that "a cursory look at any Nigerian newspaper or magazine will reveal in stark terms, a vibrant culture of journalism that stretches the boundaries of press freedom."

Mick Fealty @ 03:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 27, 2003

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
In the news, a Chinese human right activist, jailed by the Chinese, but freed after intervention from George Bush, looks like she's now on her way to a jail sentence in the US - for smuggling microprocessors back to China... (link via Instapundit)

David Steven @ 09:46 AM | TrackBack

November 16, 2003

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 15, 2003

Getting Started - It seems that WSIS is about to get started with a handful of surprises. Daily Summit hears that there is a lot of talk about changing the venue of the second phase of the summit and holding it in Cape Town instead of Tunisia. It might be for political reasons but the second surprise is that ITU (International Telecommunication Union) is considering withdrawal from the second phase as well. Reasons given range from lack of resources and lay-offs to inability to coup with intense and broad political negotiations.

Meanwhile, civil society organizations are up against holding the second phase of WSIS in Tunisia and are lobbying for a change of venue or a change in the attitude of the Tunisian government concerning human rights.
Ahmed Reda @ 10:14 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 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
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