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Reporters Without Borders launches Online Free Expression Day

Group calls on Net users to protest virtually against censorship in countries that are 'Internet enemies'

By Linda Rosencrance
March 12, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Reporters Without Borders is asking Internet users to demonstrate virtually against countries that censor Internet freedom.

"From now on, we will organize activities every 12 March to condemn cybercensorship throughout the world," the organization said in a statement. "A response of this kind is needed to the growing tendency to crack down on bloggers and to close Web sites."

According to the advocacy group for press freedom, at least 62 cyberdissidents are imprisoned around the world and more than 2,600 Web sites, blogs or discussion forums were shut down or made inaccessible in 2007.

The organization said it is giving all Internet users the opportunity to demonstrate virtually in countries where physical protests aren't possible, such as Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Revolution Square in Cuba and the streets of Rangoon in Burma.

The idea behind the virtual protest is to denounce government censorship of the Internet and to demand more online freedom, the group said. Reporters Without Borders is calling on Internet users to protest in online versions of the nine countries the organization considers "Internet enemies." The virtual demonstrations start today at 11 a.m. Paris time, which is one hour past Greenwich Mean Time, and runs until 11 a.m. tomorrow.

Internet users will be able to create an avatar, choose a message for their banners and take part in one of the cyberprotests taking place in Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, North Korea, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Vietnam, the statement said.

"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 group said. "Yahoo apologized in 2007 for a 'misunderstanding' which ended in journalist Shi Tao being sent to prison for 10 years. The company has been responsible for the imprisonment of a total of four Chinese cyberdissidents. It was apparently willing to 'obey local laws' that forced it to identify Internet users deemed to be dangerous."

Read more about Internet in Computerworld's Internet Topic Center.



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