Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CPJ calls for 'global coalition' against censorship


CPJ calls for 'global coalition' against censorshipJoel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, calls for the media to 'unite' with governments, businesses and 'civil society organisations' in standing against censorship
Posted: 21 February 2012 By: Rachel McAthy
The executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for a "global coalition" between media, governments, business sectors and "civil society organisations" against censorship.

In the press freedom organisation's annual Attacks on the Press report, which documents the "media conditions" across more than 100 countries, Simon refers to "the next information revolution", where those keen to restrict the press have learnt "that maintaining a viable censorship regime is even more urgent in the information age."
He adds: "The reality is that there are few effective legal mechanisms to fight censorship on an international level."
 In response he called for "the many constituencies that have a stake in ensuring the free flow of information" to work together to form a "global coalition against censorship".

This coalition would include the business sector, for example, which has "operations and supply chains spread throughout the world".
"Navigating political unrest, environmental disaster, and other disruptions is crucial – and it cannot be done effectively when key information is censored."
Others to join the coalition should include governments and groups "with a global agenda", in particular "human rights and environmental organisations", according to Simon.
"The key is to mobilise the many constituencies that have a stake in ensuring the free flow of information – civil society and advocacy groups, businesses, governments, and intergovernmental organisations – and build a global coalition against censorship.
 While the ability to seek and receive information is an individual human right, there is a collective interest in ensuring that information flows freely. After all, an attack on an Egyptian, Pakistani, or Mexican journalist inhibits the ability of people around the world to receive the information that journalist would have provided."

The coalition should work to call on "international organisations, including intergovernmental groups such as the Organization of American States and the Council of Europe, as well as the United Nations, to create a legal framework to ensure that press freedom and freedom of information are respected in practice", he added.

"Human rights and press freedom organisations should look for opportunities to adjudicate press freedom cases at the international level in order to build a body of global precedent."

In reference to the impact of the internet, he added that while the online world provides a platform for bloggers and citizen journalists to share information in countries where other communications are restricted, the fact is that many of them "work with few resources and little or no institutional support".

"Just as global citizens have a stake in ensuring that information flows freely, powerful forces – criminal organisations, militant groups, repressive governments – have enormous interest in controlling the news. Censorship within national borders disrupts the flow of information around the world.

"A global coalition against censorship needs to unite behind a simple idea: Censorship anywhere affects people everywhere. It can and should be abolished."

In the preface to the 462 page report, chairman of the CPJ Sandra Mims Rowe also refers to the need for greater protection, adding that "about half of the journalists imprisoned worldwide work primarily online".

"In much of the world, the enemies of free speech are monitoring journalists and bloggers, filtering online content, and attacking news websites."

She adds: "Supplementing the old fashioned beatings used to secure the names of colleagues and sources from journalists, the digital 'army' has employed the phishing of Facebook pages to dupe people into providing passwords and identities."

Now the press freedom group is working to "act as a bridge between Silicon Valley and the journalists who depend on their products".

Last year the CPJ's first internet advocacy coordinator Danny O'Brien brought together technologists and journalists to meet and discuss these issues, she reports.

"While the internet has provided the equivalent of a printing press to millions of people across the world, it has also broadened the power to shutter those presses. Technology is allowing journalists to slip the chains of censorship, but that new found freedom will be fleeting if not defended."

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