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Controlling Cyber Dissidents?

Blogging is not only a well-established element of pop culture, it has become a tremendously influential communications mechanism. As early as March 2002, an article in Wired discussed the blogging “revolution” and declared that blogging “could be to words what Napster was to music - except this time, it’ll really work.”

Although in America blogging is an essential component of political discourse, in some countries it is a crime. For example, the most recent Internet Under Surveillance report by Reporters Without Borders notes that two Internet users in the Maldives “have been sentenced to life imprisonment for criticizing a dictatorship…that has been in power for the past 40 years.”

Reporters Without Borders is holding a press event to highlight their concerns “that the countries that least respect free expression are playing a dominant role in the preparation…” of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) conference.

To call much needed attention to the role of various dictatorships in helping set global internet policies, Reporters Without Borders will be represented at a preparatory conference being held in Geneva February 18-25 by “by a delegation of Chinese, Iranian, Tunisian and Maldivian cyber-dissidents and bloggers so that they can describe the violations of online free expression that take place in their countries.”

As a Reporters Without Borders official explained, “We would like to put a face to the repression against Internet users in some of the countries that will be parading at the WSIS.”

The Reporters Without Borders press conference will be held on February 17th at 2:00 pm at Charly’s Multimedia Check Point in Geneva. The press conference is being held at an internet caf? “so the cyber- dissidents can support their presentations with concrete examples of censorship.”

All internet stakeholders who value freedom of expression, including corporations, governments NGOs, and individuals, should pay close attention to both the press conference and the WSIS process and not take their freedom for granted.

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