Amnesty International is calling on bloggers around the world to stand up for the right of free expression. The press release comes days before the Internet Governance Forum meet in Athens (30/10/06 - 2/11/06) to discuss the future of the Internet. There are fears that decisions made could infringe upon individuals right to freedom of expression—the cases of Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari and Chinese journalist Shi Tao are cited as prime examples of injustice. Kianoosh Sanjari was arrested between the first and second rounds of elections in Iran on the 29th of July this year after reporting on clashes between security forces and supporters of Shi'a cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi. The press release also reports “Shi Tao used his Yahoo! account to email a US-based website about an internal government directive instructing journalists how to handle media coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for ‘illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.’ Yahoo! provided information to the government that was used in his prosecution.”
Steve Ballinger, part of Amnesty International’s delegation to the IGF, said:
“Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege – but it’s a right that needs defending. We’re asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government.”
In the case of Shi Tao there is no doubt that Yahoo was required to provide confidential information to secret police by law and that Yahoo must comply with the laws of countries within which it operates. This however brings up the moral question of whether western corporations should be willing to sell off individuals human rights in order to further it’s business. If Yahoo had located it’s servers outside of China then it would not have been obligated to comply. This issue also raises the question of what steps would be taken by regimes to stop access to services outside of their own borders if corporations refused to yield; one outcome could be the introduction of ‘Internet Borders’ with each country controlling exactly what is and is not allowed to be communicated.