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Amnesty To Press UN On Blogger Rights

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-10-30

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A Chinese proposal to force bloggers to register with the government using their real names will be on the minds of United Nations delegates as they discuss various online issues at the Internet Governance Forum to be held in Athens.

The Internet Governance Forum Greece 2006 started today, as part of the UN's encouragement of more discussion of the issues central to how its member nations regulate the Internet. Topics they will discuss include cybersecurity, privacy, and human rights.

Amnesty International noted it will have a delegation at the proceedings, to help keep the human rights discussion in the minds of attendees. The conference's Greek hosts did themselves no favors by arresting a native blogger last week (noted under 10:30 ATHENS):

Antonis Tsipropoulos was arrested, say reports, for linking to a website which satires Dimostenis Liakopoulos, a Greek tele-evangelist.

Mr Tsipropoulos is the administrator for a Greek blog search engine, called blogme.gr.

Bloggers are describing this as a "spectacular own goal" by the Greek authorities, especially given the fact the country's prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis and minister of transport and communication, Michalis Liapis, are attending the IGF's opening ceremony.

(For our American readers who may be unversed in the ways of soccer, just think of a "spectacular own goal" as Peyton Manning throwing a pass to Marvin Harrison and him running to the wrong end zone.)

That incident and the efforts of the Chinese government to register its bloggers will have Amnesty pushing conference attendees to acknowledge and remedy the human rights violations the organization has witnessed in China and other countries:

Chinese journalist Shi Tao e-mailed a U.S.-based Web site an internal government directive on media coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. He remains imprisoned in China.

Tunisian lawyer Mohammed Abbou is serving a three and a half year term largely for articles critical of Tunisian authorities on the Internet.

Vietnamese dissident Truong Quoc Huy has been arrested twice for participation in democracy and human rights chat rooms. His current whereabouts are unknown, and no charges have been made public.

Corante blogger Alexandra Samuel questioned the ability for Amnesty to make significant inroads at IGF Greece, considering that human rights are just one part of its conference agenda. The organization has hopes that it can have an impact be being involved now, according to Amnesty's Erica Radzook responding to Samuel:

"The IGF has a five-year mandate, this is the first meeting, and there are a lot of things on the menu right now. Especially since governments and corporations will be well-represented at the IGF, there's a danger of human rights getting sidelined. We're going to make sure that doesn't happen.

"As far as what we hope will come out of this -- it's very early in the process. But it's crucial that whatever does get produced, human rights -- especially protection for freedom of expression and the right to privacy online -- is at the forefront."

To make sure no one forgets the role of major companies in the issue of Internet freedom, Amnesty reminded everyone of the actions of a trio of big Internet players:

Yahoo! has provided Chinese authorities with confidential information leading to the arrest of journalists. Microsoft has shut down a blog at Chinese government request. Google has launched a censored version of its international search engine in China.

People interested in using their websites to help increase awareness of online censorship, one of the many issues the IGF will discuss this week and over the course of its five-year run, can place code on their sites to publish censored material that would otherwise be blocked. Here is how one format of the code would look on a site:

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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