Monday, 5 September 2011

RWB: Call for action against 'criminal cooperation' by new tech companies with authoritarian regimes


Press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders has condemned what it describes as "the criminal cooperation" that exists between western new technology companies and authoritarian regimes.

RWB has urged the leaders of international companies operating in the new technology domain, especially telecommunications surveillance, in Libya, Syria, Burma, China, Turkmenistan and other authoritarian counties should think about their responsibility.

It has urged internet users to be much more careful and be aware that emails can now be intercepted, Skype calls can be recorded, webcams can be turned on remotely and internet content can be modified without the users knowing.

RWB secretary-general Jean-Fran├žois Julliard said: “These companies no longer have any reservations about collaborating with criminal governments. A total of 122 bloggers and netizens are currently detained worldwide. The companies that work with these governments are complicit and responsible for the fate of these detainees. Financial sanctions should be imposed on companies collaborating with governments that jail bloggers or censor the internet.

“Without financial sanctions, these practices will not stop. Companies are not above the law. There are courts that try illicit practices by companies. Why shouldn’t they try the criminal responsibility of companies that collaborate with regimes that are guilty of crimes? Provision should be made at the national level for penalizing such collaboration, and referral to the International Criminal Court should be considered when companies become the accomplices to war crime by dictators. After being concerned about impunity for dictators, the world should now be worrying about impunity for companies.

“Human lives are at stake. Must they be sacrificed for the sake of profits? The leaders of international companies operating in the new technology domain, especially telecommunications surveillance, in Libya, Syria, Burma, China, Turkmenistan and other authoritarian counties should think about their responsibility. Their tools, their equipment and their know-how are being used for criminal purposes.”

RWB has reiterated a call for legislation banning cooperation between companies and dictatorships on the lines of the proposed Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA) in the United States and its European equivalent.

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