Thursday, December 8, 2011
Free Press Unlimited calls on national governments to make binding agreements about the use and export of malicious software. ‘It’s great to share good intentions, but what’s next?’ Leon Willems, Director of Free Press Unlimited, co-organised the Big Tent Event on 8 December in The Hague. His contribution will be a Call to Action: a ‘to-do list’ signed by over 25 international organisations that work to promote press and Internet freedom around the world. This Call to Action will be directed at the organisations and governments attending the Internet Freedom conference held on 9 December 2011, including the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There is a strong need for binding agreements in this area.

‘What we want is for national governments to make binding agreements regarding the sharing and implementation of dual-use technology. This involves software programs that can be used by regimes to oppress the citizens of their country. Dutch companies are also involved in the export of this software. In effect, they are aiding malevolent governments to abuse human rights.’ With the Call to Action, which was drawn up in consultation with Free Press Unlimited’s development partner Hivos, over 25 international organisations and individuals urge governments to take measures in this area.

Confidence in civil society

Willems also argues for a more active role for civil society in the protection of reporters and bloggers who face limited Internet freedom. ‘Organisations like Free Press Unlimited and Hivos make all the difference in countries like Egypt, Morocco and Iraq, because they have earned the trust of local human rights activists, the social media generation and journalists.’ According to Willems, policy makers need to invest in the communal strength generated by civil society around the world. Internet freedom is not merely an issue that needs to be resolved between companies and governments: ‘Every day, journalists, bloggers and activists take considerable risks to provide their audience with reliable information, and we aim to help them as far as possible.’

Call to Action during the Big Tent event on 8 December

On 8 December 2011, Leon Willems will call on everyone attending the Big Tent Event in The Hague to take action. After the event, organisations and private individuals will have an opportunity to endorse the Call to Action with their signature, insofar as they have not already done so.

Bloggers and activists present on 8 December

To put a clear focus on what it’s all about, Free Press Unlimited has invited four people to attend the event who are directly involved in the promotion of freedom of speech around the world: Tarik Nesh-Nash from Morocco, Merve Alicifrom from Turkey, Slim Jerbia from Tunisia and Bassem Samir from Egypt. They can refer to their own experiences to explain what it means in practice to lack Internet freedom.

Tarik Nesh-Nash will participate in a panel discussion. Everyone attending the event will have an opportunity to meet these bloggers and activists in the Free Press Unlimited stand in the Big Tent.