Reporters Without Borders learned last night that UNESCO has withdrawn its patronage for today's Online Free Expression Day



    MONTREAL, March 12 /CNW Telbec/ - We were notified of the decision by the
director of its Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace Division. Defending
the move, UNESCO said it gave its patronage for the "principle of this day"
but could not support the various demonstrations organised to mark it.
    "We are not fooled," Reporters Without Borders said. "Several governments
on today's updated list of 15 'Internet Enemies' put direct pressure on the
office of the UNESCO director general, and deputy director general Marcio
Barbosa caved in. UNESCO's reputation has not been enhanced by this episode.
It has behaved with great cowardice at a time when the governments that got it
to stage a U-turn continue to imprison dozens of Internet users."
    The press freedom organisation added: "Unfortunately, it seems we have
gone back 20 years, to the time when authoritarian regimes called the shots at
UNESCO headquarters in Paris. UNESCO's grovelling shows the importance of
Online Free Expression Day and the need to protest against governments that
censor."
    Reporters Without Borders immediately informed the French foreign
ministry of UNESCO's decision as it was at the suggestion of the French
National Commission to UNESCO that this UN body granted its patronage for this
event. The commission is an offshoot of the foreign ministry. Reporters
Without Borders is of the view that the French government cannot remain silent
in the face of the rebuff it has received as a result of pressure from
authoritarian governments.
    Reporters Without Borders has issued an updated list of "Internet
Enemies" as part of its actions to mark this day. There are 15 countries on
the list - Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, North Korea,
Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
    Cyber-demos are being organised in online versions of nine especially
repressive countries. Internet users can create an avatar, choose a message
for their banner and take part in one of these virtual protests.
    Finally, a new version of the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents
has been posted on the Reporters Without Borders website (www.rsf.org). It
offers practical advice and techniques on how to start up a blog and
circumvent censorship.
    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.

    
           internet@rsf.org - For more information - www.rsf.org
    




For further information:

For further information: Hélène Fargues, Assistant to the Secretary
General, Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111; Cell: (514) 258-4208,
rsfcanada3@rsf.org

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