Internet can be muzzled?

8. February 2010 – 15:40 by Eric Legale

“Virtual walls are cropping up in place of visible walls” said Hillary Clinton, last January 21, in a very important speech on Internet freedom. We can see it every day in Iran, China, Viertnam, Burma and in many countries a spike in threats to the free flow of information. It also happening in Europe, in Belarus, where President Lukashenko has signed a decree regulating the dissemination of information on the, in the context of a tumultuous presidential election, next year.

This Decree, which will come into force on next 1st of July, stipulates that all governmental institutions should place information on their activities only on official web-sites. Not only that, but, according to the decree, all information which is disseminated through “Belarusian Internet” must have hyperlinks to the source. State registration is introduced for all Internet providers in Belarus. The official procedure for registration will be announced in due time. “In order to provide security for the citizens of the country, Internet service providers are obliged to identify users Internet access devices, keep track of such devices and Internet services rendered”, - Belarusian president’s press-service states.

In this context of increasing number of examples of threats to free access to the Internet, the speech of U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is a good reminder of the importance of preserving this new right of peoples to free access to the information through ICT.

This speech summed up perfectly the vision of democracies facing the expansion of information networks that are now “a new nervous system¬†for our planet.” “Viral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day”, she said, referring to the small pamphlets which circulated during the communist period in East Europe. Most important, she highlighted a new freedom, “Freedom to connect” that must be considered as “equivalent to freedom of assembly”, convinced that “online organizing is a critical tool for advancing democracy”.

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