International - First Online Free Expression Day to be launched on Reporters Without Borders website under UNESCO patronage



    Reporters Without Borders will launch the first Online Free Expression
    Day under UNESCO's patronage tomorrow.

    MONTREAL, March 11 /CNW Telbec/ - "From now on, we will organise
activities every 12 March to condemn cyber-censorship throughout the world,"
Reporters Without Borders said. "A response of this kind is needed to the
growing tendency to crack down on bloggers and to close websites. We thank
UNESCO for providing its support for this special day from the very first
year.
    "Tomorrow, the first time this day is being marked, we are giving all
Internet users the opportunity to demonstrate in places were protests are not
normally possible. We hope many will come and protest in virtual versions of
Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Cuba's Revolution Square or on the streets of
Rangoon, in Burma. At least 62 cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned
worldwide, while more than 2,600 websites, blogs or discussions forums were
closed or made inaccessible in 2007."
    The press freedom organisation added: "Our list of 'Internet Enemies' has
also been updated with the addition of two countries - Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
And we are offering an new version of our Handbook for Bloggers and
Cyber-Dissidents."
    To denounce government censorship of the Internet and to demand more
online freedom, Reporters Without Borders is calling on Internet users to come
and protest in online versions of nine countries that are Internet enemies
during the 24 hours from 11 a.m. tomorrow, 12 March, to 11 a.m. on 13 March
(Paris time, GMT +1). Anyone with Internet access will be able to create an
avatar, choose a message for their banner and take part in one of the
cyber-demos taking place in Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, North Korea,
Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
    There are 15 countries in this year's Reporters Without Borders list of
"Internet Enemies" - Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, North
Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and
Zimbabwe. There were only 13 in 2007. The two new additions to the traditional
censors are both to be found in sub-Saharan Africa: Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
    "This is not at all surprising as these regimes regularly hound the
traditional media," Reporters Without Borders says in the introduction to its
report."Internet penetration is very slight, but nevertheless sufficient to
give them a few nightmares. They follow the example of their seniors and draw
on the full arsenal of online censorship methods including legislation,
monitoring Internet cafés and controlling ISPs."
    There is also a supplementary list of 11 "countries under watch." They
are Bahrain, Eritrea, Gambia, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan,
Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Unlike the "enemies," these
countries do not imprison bloggers or censor the Internet massively. But they
are sorely tempted and abuses are common. Many of them have laws that they
could use to gag the Internet if they wanted. And the judicial or political
authorities often use anti-terrorism laws to identify and monitor government
opponents and activists expressing themselves online.
    "The hunting down of independent thinkers online is all the more
effective as several major western companies have colluded with governments in
pinpointing 'trouble-makers'," the reports says. "US company Yahoo! apologised
in 2007 for a 'misunderstanding' which ended in journalist Shi Tao being sent
to prison for ten years. The company has been responsible for the imprisonment
of a total of four Chinese cyber-dissidents. It was apparently willing to
'obey local laws' that forced it to identify Internet users deemed to be
dangerous."
    Finally, a new version of the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents
is available in French and English on the Reporters Without Borders website
(www.rsf.org). It offers practical advice and techniques on how to start up a
blog, how to blog for anonymously and how to circumvent censorship. It also
includes the accounts of bloggers from countries such as Egypt and Burma.
    The cyber-demonstration was devised and produced by the  Saatchi &
Saatchi advertising agency

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at http://photos.newswire.ca.
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at http://photos.newswire.ca. Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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