Speaking Out And The Pitfalls
It is interesting that in Barbados we are discussing the importance of implementing effective Integrity and Freedom of Information legislation at this time. Barbadians especially have become enamored with the idea that we have a well functioning democracy which will just keep hopping along with little or no effort from us. Some members of the BU family have been very insistent that we need to work a little harder to ensure that as a PEOPLE we participate in all the elements which make up our democracy.
Barbados is a small country located in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, our quest to ensure safeguards are instituted to provide the best governance takes inspiration from the fact that PEOPLE all over the world are paying a price to access what WE take for granted. WE HAVE TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR DEMOCRACY TO MAKE IT WORK!
If you doubt us about the price PEOPLE all over the world are paying to enjoy freedom of expression…
We receive the following in our inbox and we will join the cause.
At this moment, at least 80 people around the world, many of them bloggers, are behind bars because they dared to express their political opinions online. We are hoping that you will take a moment to add your name to a petition by parliamentarians and others calling for their release.
The short statement below, calling for freedom of expression on the Internet, has been signed by over 50 legislators from all continents, and is now being circulated for signature to bloggers, journalists, citizens and groups. Once it has received a large number of signatures, it will be sent to heads of state and government ‐‐ including those who are holding the prisoners ‐‐ as well as to the UN Human Rights Council.
This Call for e-Freedom has been initiated by the e‐Parliament, which is a new forum for democratic legislators.
For the first time in history, the internet enables us to have a truly global conversation about our common future – in our local communities, our national communities and our global community. In blogs, websites and discussion groups, people are sharing ideas, exposing corruption and building networks to solve common problems.
We are now contacting you as a member of the blogging community in the hope that you would like to sign this Call for e-Freedom — to show solidarity with your fellow bloggers whose only crime has been to voice an opinion online. The text that we are asking people to sign is as follows:
As Members of Parliament and Congress and as citizens, we call on all governments to allow their people to express their views on the Internet freely and without fear of retribution. In particular, we call for the release of those who are now in prison because they expressed opinions online that their governments did not like. We believe the Internet should be a space for free exchange among all the world’s people, where no one loses their life or their liberty for saying what they think.
You can add your name to the list of signatories simply by visiting http://www.e-parl.net/efreedom and signing at the bottom of the page. If you can also encourage your friends and colleagues to add their names, we would be most grateful.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Graham Watson MEP Sirpa Pietikainen MEP
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
European Parliament European Parliament
Ana Maria Gomes MEP, Anders Wijkman MEP
Socialist Group European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
European Parliament European Parliament
The Call for e-Freedom – additional information
According to international human rights organisations, as of 1st October 2008 those imprisoned for free speech on the Internet include:
Hu Jia was detained on 27 December 2007 and sentenced in April 2008 to three and a half years. His crime was to expose human rights violations and to publicise China’s AIDS problem on the Internet. His wife Zeng Jinyan and their young child are under house arrest. About 50 other people have been imprisoned in China for similar ‘crimes’. More on Hu Jia here.
Tariq Omar Biasi has been in jail in Syria since 7 July 2007 for a blog entry that was regarded as critical of the security services. His six year sentence was reduced to three on appeal. The authorities have strict laws on licensing internet sites and seven other individuals are thought to be in jail in Syria for expressing opinions online. More about Tariq here.
Nguyen Van Dai regularly posted pro-democracy essays on websites based abroad. In June 2006, for example, he wrote an article on the “right to found a party in Vietnam” for the BBC’s Vietnamese website. Arrested in March 2007, he was sentenced to 5 years — reduced to 4 on appeal. Other internet writers are known to be in jail in Vietnam and Burma. More on Nguyen Van Dai here.
Legislators, organisations and citizens are all encouraged to sign this Call for e-Freedom – which will then be delivered to the authorities who are holding these people in prison. We shall continue to collect signatures and to apply parliamentary pressure based on the Call so long as such prisoners are being held.