Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal has called on the world to support bloggers and cyber-dissidents. The appeal comes on the eve of the 2011 Online Freedom conference, which will be opened by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
On the Facebook page ifreedom2011, the minister wrote that internet access is an integral part of freedom of expression. The ifreedom2011 page urges users to sign an online petition calling for the release and protection of six bloggers from Egypt, Syria, Vietnam, Thailand and Cuba:
Concern about the fate of these bloggers and others is being questioned by Dutch embassies, within the EU and among those with bilateral contacts with the countries involved. Minister Rosenthal also raised the issue during a recent visit to Egypt.
According to Mr Rosenthal, internet freedom is under pressure in a growing number of countries. “Online espionage activities, blockades and propaganda, as well as intimidation and persecution in ordinary life are a threat to internet freedom.”
The 2011 Online Freedom Conference is the starting point for an international coalition of countries, business and social organisations to fight for internet freedom. However, that does not mean that anything goes. “Respect for human rights must go hand in hand with respect for the interests of citizens, governments and society.”
Still, freedom of expression on the internet is gaining international attention. Last week, European Parliament approved a fund of 125 million euros to promote internet freedom outside the European Union. With this money, internet journalists, bloggers and activists can be trained on how to deal with censorship and online assaults.