“Surveillance sans frontières”

 

As a relevant follow-up to yesterday’s blog, we are pleased to publish a blog post by Svante Hådell, Press Counsellor at the Swedish Embassy in Paris, from Reporters Without Borders award ceremony in Paris last night.

 

***

Yesterday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) highlighted, for the sixth time, the World Day Against Cyber Censorship in central Paris. This year, the main focus was on surveillance and its consequences for freedom on the Net. Though the RSF Executive Director Christophe Deloire regretted the late cancellation of the French IT minister Fleur Pellerin, the prize ceremony and the following debate were very well attended and gathered some 200 people.

The annual report RSF “The enemies of the internet” did yet again reveal some truly discouraging figures. One out of the three netizens in the world suffers from a limited internet access. Forty countries are actively blocking or obstructing their citizens’ possibilities to free online communication. In China alone, 40 000 civil servants are put to monitor and strike down on whatever internet activities that may be considered as illegal or inappropriate by the regime.

In a most touching speech by the award winning “Netizen of the Year 2013”, the Vietnamese blogger Huynh Ngoc Chenh told about the circumstances under which he and his fellow countrymen must operate. Huynh’s blog has been shut down several times with no explanation from the authorities. Huynh underlined the importance of internet access for an open discussion on democracy and human rights. In Vietnam, he said, the internet is called “the media of the people”, as opposed to the state-controlled official media. Huynh expressed his deepest gratitude to both RSF and Google, and said that the fact that the award now made him famous could serve as a great inspiration to others.

For the first time, the RSF report did not only highlight oppressive regimes and the situation of the 180 netizens that are imprisoned all over the world. RSF also listed five companies as “Corporate Enemies of the Internet”, as they are accused of providing oppressive regimes with technique used in cyber warfare. In last night’s debate the calls for more international legislation on export control of dual use surveillance equipment were repeated.

The prize ceremony was held in an unusually cold and snowy French capital at Google‘s Parisian headquarters in the “Quartier de l’Europe” (a prestigious neighbourhood in the 8th arrondissement, constructed in the early 19th century by the Swedish banker Jonas-Philip Hagerman). This was the third time that Google sponsored the World Day Against Cyber Censorship, and the first where they so visibly acted as a co-host of the event. The involvement of Google is only one of many examples of the American IT giant’s wish to play an active role in the global debate. Tomorrow Google organises one of its “Big Tents” (a global series of multi-stakeholder meetings on internet issues) in Stockholm. Foreign Minister Carl Bildt will be on of the key note speakers. The theme of the event is Freedom and Safety Online.

Svante Hådell

Press Counsellor

Swedish Embassy in Paris


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