The US and the world community are addressing the issue of free access to the Internet and governments that seek to restrict its use in spreading human rights and democracy.
U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice had established the task force in February 2006, with one of its goals addressing the practice by repressive regimes of restricting the flow of information on the Internet. Now, the conference held by US government, brought together State Department officials, representatives from the corporate world and human rights organizations, leaders from the high-profile Yahoo! and Google Internet-based services companies, and Microsoft corporation, to discuss views on how to combat Internet censorship.
The department's recent conference was divided into two panel discussions: one on the effect of Internet censorship, and another on Internet freedom, short for what the Department defines as "freedom of expression and the free flow of information online".
Krilla, deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, said his bureau recently set aside $500,000 from its 'Human Rights and Democracy Fund' to support global Internet freedom projects. In addition, the Department's next edition of its annual country reports on human rights practices will have an expanded section about freedom of speech on the Internet. Krilla indicated that report will be released next month.
Paris-based press freedom advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, released a report February 1 that revealed 60 people around the world currently are imprisoned for posting criticism of governments online.
The report said China, with 50 people in jail, is by far the world's 'worst prison' for cyberdissidents. Four other such dissidents are in jail in Vietnam, three in Syria and one each in Tunisia, Libya and Iran. The report lists the worst violations in repressive countries, including major culprits North Korea, Eritrea, Cuba and Turkmenistan, but also looks at democracies, where progress needs to be made too.
Also, according to the report, a disturbing record number of journalists and media workers were killed or thrown in prison around the world in 2006 and we are already concerned about 2007, as six journalists and four media assistants have been killed in January alone.