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Rio IGF 2008: Amnesty renews its call on governments and companies to make human rights central to internet governance

As the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meets in Rio de Janeiro this week, Amnesty International said today that restrictions on freedom of expression online are increasing globally.

Amnesty International believes that numerous allegations of corporate involvement in suppression of human rights necessitates both companies and governments taking their responsibilities more seriously. The organisation is calling on governments to halt prosecution and legislation aimed at limiting freedom of expression online and to release prisoners held on the basis of their online political expression. Amnesty also calls on governments to commit collectively to human rights standards as the essential basis to prevent violations online.

To ensure that Internet companies do not become complicit with governments in violating human rights, Amnesty is urging such companies to demonstrably use all national and international legal, political and technical means available towards this end.

Nick Dearden, part of Amnesty International’s delegation to the IGF, said:

“In the 12 months since the last IGF we’ve witnessed the crisis in Burma, where the Internet was used to get images and information out of the country and to mobilize people all over the world to take action. On the other hand we have also monitored the increase in censorship, filtering and blocking of websites.

“The IGF is taking place at a pivotal time in the Internet’s history. Its potential is enormous, but that potential could so easily be squandered. It’s essential that human rights are embedded in any agreement on Internet governance, and that companies and governments are held to their human rights commitments.”

Two years after agreement was reached in Tunis on the principles which should govern the Internet, more and more countries apply filters to web content, ‘cyber-dissidents’ are arrested and harassed in a growing number of countries said the organisation.

  • China is believed to hold around 60 cyber-dissidents including Shi Tao, Wang Xiaoning, Li Zhi and Jiang Lijun for reporting and political comment
  • Seven students and a beautician were jailed following unfair trials in Syria in July after calling for peaceful political reforms online
  • Truong Quoc Huy was arrested in Vietnam in August 2006 and is believed to be facing charges of “abusing democratic freedoms” for participating in chat rooms. He has not been seen by his family since his arrest, and his current whereabouts is uncertain.

Recent arrests have been reported in a number of other countries including Thailand where directives and legislation to limit freedom of expression online were issued in September 2006 and July 2007.

According to research by the Open Net initiative, while five years ago serious and systematic filtering appeared to take place in just three countries,– China, Iran and Saudi Arabia – today it has been detected in more than two dozen states including Burma, Morocco and Thailand.

  • Find out more about our work on internet repression
  • Read our blog from the IGF /li>

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