Thursday 26 May 2011

'Defend the free internet before trying to regulate it' e-G8 Forum told by press freedom campaigners

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard has called for "the free internet to be defended" before attempts are made to regulate it.

Julliard was among those who gave an unofficial news conference in one of the conference rooms of the “e-G8” forum on Internet issues in Paris yesterday, voicing opposition to attempts to regulate the internet and criticising the lack of representativeness of most of those who were invited by the French government to take part in the forum.

Participants in the news conference – improvised at the last minute and not part of the forum’s official programme – also included US journalist Jeff Jarvis.

Jarvis said he was “scared by those who are scared of the internet.” Julliard said he was “extremely disappointed” by the course taken by discussions during the e-G8 forum, including the lack of a strongly-worded message to governments that target journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents.

“The free Internet must be defended before thought is given to regulating content,” Julliard said. “The priority for G8 governments should be defending the internet.”

Julliard made similar comments when he took part in a panel discussion today on “Electronic Liberty: New Tools for Freedom,” an official part of the forum’s programme. Other participants included Google representatives, Alec Ross of the US State Department, and journalists and activists from the Arab world.

“The G8 should say clearly that internet access is a fundamental human right, before discussing anything else, whether economic development or copyright issues,” Julliard said.

He also accused certain democracies of saying one thing and doing another. He cited the US administration’s actions as regards WikiLeaks but said other democracies did not lag far behind. “It is easy to defend freedom of speech in Syria, but we should defend it in Italy, Australia and France as well.”

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