In mid-August, a few hundred people took to the streets in Burma’s capital, Rangoon. Since then, the world has watched an unfolding drama on its TV screens. At least, those that have TV are watching. Others are listening to their radios, or reading newspapers, leaflets, emails and blogs (or web logs).
Over fifty years ago, when they wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they didn’t anticipate the World Wide Web and its effect on international communications. Article 19 says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” It’s become harder to conceal human rights abuses since then, as there are an increasing number of ways to spread information.
There are still obstacles, of course. You need electrical power to power the Internet, though it can be generated with green technology, and access to a telecommunications network, but allowing for these hurdles, there’s still a lot of information zooming about that some people would prefer you didn’t know. That’s the idea behind an Amnesty International campaign called “irrepressible.info”. They say, “The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments – with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world – are cracking down on freedom of expression,” and encourage people to undermine censorship by publishing fragments of censored material on their sites
Of course, if you’re not connected to the Internet, you won’t be able to read this sort of material, but some of it will have been used in the news reports you see, hear and read in the media. Even technophobes might acknowledge that the Internet serves a very useful purpose by disseminating information that tyrants and corrupt politicians don’t want you to know. They dislike modern communications because they’re hard to control. It’s like sticking a finger in a dam; you might block up one hole, but the water will still trickle through somewhere else when you weren’t looking.
To find out more about irrepressible.info, click the Amnesty banner on the top right hand side of our home page.