New Amnesty 45th anniversary campaign tackles internet repression

To mark 45 years since Amnesty International was founded, today (28 May) the organisation launches a new campaign, irrepressible.info, to challenge a new threat to freedom - repression on the internet.

Around the world, Internet cafés are shut down, computers seized, chat rooms monitored, and blogs deleted. Websites are blocked or heavily censored, search engines are restricted and foreign news prohibited.

The new campaign highlights the rise of internet censorship and the cases of individual prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their beliefs online. It also highlights the role of multinational companies, colluding with governments in restricting people’s right to freedom of expression and information on the net. In China, for example, Cisco and Sun Microsystems have reportedly cooperated closely with the authorities in building monitoring and filtering technologies, whilst Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google have all complied with demands to censor Chinese users of their services.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The internet has become a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Its potential to empower and educate, to allow people to share and mobilise opinion has led to government crackdowns.

“Irrespressible.info will harness the power of the internet and of individuals to oppose repression and stand up for free speech. The more people that sign our pledge for internet freedom, the louder our voice becomes.”

The campaign launches on May 28 with a new website http://irrepressible.info enabling people to join the campaign by signing a simple pledge opposing internet repression. Thousands of online pledges will be collected, calling on all governments and companies to respect internet freedom. These will be presented to a UN meeting on the future of the internet in November 2006.

Amnesty is asking people to turn censorship on itself by putting a unique badge on their own site or email signature. The badge contains excerpts from websites that governments have censored for political reasons – so every person that takes part, will be helping to broadcast censored content that the authorities have tried to repress.

An email campaign will call on IT companies to stop putting profit before principles and respect human rights wherever they operate. And Amnesty will target countries which seek to limit the freedom of the internet, as well as working for the release of those detained because of their efforts to use the internet as a force for freedom.

The campaign highlights the case of journalist Shi Tao who, in 2004, sent an email to an overseas website describing the Chinese government's instructions on how his newspaper, Dangdai Shang Bao, should cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Yahoo helped the Chinese authorities identify Shi through his email account. He is now serving a 10-year sentence in a Chinese jail. Amnesty International is calling for his immediate release.

Irrepressible.info was conceived and designed by Soda Creative Soda specialise in the design and implementation of technology for the purposes of art, learning and play. Working with a diverse range of clients and partners, Soda have an international reputation for innovation and design excellence.

Background

Amnesty International was founded in 1961 with an article in The Observer newspaper called Forgotten Prisoners. The author, Peter Benenson, urged people to call on governments to stop this persecution. The “appeal for amnesty” that he started went on to become Amnesty International, a movement that now has 1.8 million supporters in over 100 countries around the world and continues to stand up for freedom and justice wherever it is denied.

As part of irrepressible.info Amnesty International is asking people to sign a pledge for internet freedom:

I believe the Internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference. I call on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the Internet - and on companies to stop helping them do it.

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