Moral pygmies say sorry

Big news overnight on the notorious case of Yahoo and how it handed across information on Chinese activists who later got imprisoned.

 

Yahoo has settled a lawsuit with the families of Wang Xiaoning, a pro-democracy blogger and Shi Tao, a business journalist who were jailed for ten years after Yahoo gave the Chinese authorities email info that led to their arrest, alleged torture and long imprisonment.

Yahoo has now offered a settlement that will apparently see Yahoo giving financial, humanitarian and legal support to the detainees families. Amnesty and others have been campaigning against internet repression for a long time, so this is welcome news. Its a clear victory for a group of Chinese families that had taken on the technological giants (in the words of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos) that had behaved like moral pygmies.

But lets not get carried away. Yahoo has denied any responsibility and is still sticking to its line that it was only complying with Chinese law. Its a breakthrough of a kind for the families but the men are still no closer to release. Amnesty has already queried Yahoos real commitment to start protecting privacy and free speech. The campaign continues.

Relatedly, only yesterday morning I noticed Tessa Jowell doing a live Sky News interview from the Beijing Olympics site picking her words oh so carefully about whether in her view Beijing 2008 is going to be freely reported and whether there will be a lasting legacy of increased press freedom in China when the althletes leave. It's got to be said, despite Ms Jowells diplomatic words, the signs are still not good.

Meanwhile, theres a good piece in the Guardian on the death penalty, focusing on three exonerees - men plucked from death row and certain death only by the luck of the legal draw. With a big United Nations General Assembly vote on whether there should be a worldwide halt to executions expected later this afternoon (check for news later today at this excellent site), its a timely reminder of one of the strongest anti-death penalty arguments: theres no reprieve from the grave.

Desmond Tutu had a think-piece out yesterday calling for countries to vote for a death penalty halt. Tutus right about most things and hes right about this. Only this morning my in-box had chilling death penalty news: 10 people in Sudan facing execution, one of them only 16 years old. All may have been tortured into false confessions. The death penalty is fatally flawed - weve got to get rid of it.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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