Call for jailed bloggers to be freed

Amnesty International is launching a campaign on behalf of a whole new category of prisoners of conscience - internet bloggers and chatroom visitors arrested by repressive governments for expressing unwelcome views or disseminating sensitive information online.

In an appeal issued today, the human rights watchdog is urging webmasters around the world to stand up for their imprisoned fellow bloggers - in countries such as Iran, Tunisia, Vietnam and China - and denouncing major internet service providers, including Yahoo! and Microsoft, for providing foreign governments with the information they need to purge the web of dissenting voices.

The appeal comes on the eve of the inaugural meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, a UN-sponsored gathering in Athens to consider the future of online communication - including freedom of expression as well as security and intellectual property rights.

"People have been locked up just for expressing their views in an e-mail or on a website," said Steve Ballinger of Amnesty. "Sites and blogs have been shut down and firewalls built to prevent access to information. Companies have restricted internet searches to stop people accessing information that repressive governments don't want them to see.

"Countries and businesses have failed to respect, protect and promote the rights to freedom of expression, association and privacy, and the rights of human rights defenders."

Amnesty is issuing an urgent appeal on behalf of an Iranian blogger called Kianoosh Sanjari, who was arrested earlier this month after he provided reports on clashes between security forces and supporters of a Shia cleric called Ayatollah Boroujerdi. "He is being held incommunicado and [we fear] that he may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment," Amnesty said.

A number of governments have resorted to filtering and blocking mechanisms to keep unwelcome political content off the internet, Amnesty said. But the group also criticised big private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for acceding to the demands of repressive governments and passing on information identifying bloggers.

It pinpointed Yahoo!'s Chinese partner Alibaba, which it said had provided information used to prosecute the journalist Shi Tao and led to Shi's sentencing to 10 years in prison for "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities". Shi had sent information to a US website about the Chinese government's plans for containing media coverage of an anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Amnesty criticised Microsoft for acceding to China's request to restrict freedom of expression on its MSN Spaces blog service, including the shutdown of a blog written by a New York Times researcher, Zhao Jing. Amnesty also joined the criticism that greeted Google's decision to launch a censored version of its search engine for China.

Mr Ballinger said it was vital for the online community to make its voice heard at the Internet Governance Forum. "Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege - but it's a right that needs defending," he said. "We're asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government."

Today's appeal comes after publication of an Amnesty report on internet censorship in Vietnam, where the group said ISPs have to inform on their users, internet café owners must monitor the activities of customers and web users themselves must denounce sites they encounter which criticise the government.

The Vietnamese government reserves the right to block sites, ostensibly to prevent the spread of pornography.

Kianoosh Sanjari's blog

Ahmad Batebi's doctor is arrested

[Student activist Ahmad Batebi was briefly released from prison for medical treatment]

A few minutes ago I had a phonecall saying that Dr Hesam Firouzi [Ahmed Batabi's doctor] was arrested at his house. His wife told a friend of his at noon that five or six plainclothes people from the Ministry of Information came to the house. After searching the house and collecting Dr Firouzi's belongings like computers, letters and writings, they arrested him and took him. Dr Firouzi's wife managed to see the arrest warrant. It says "Hesan 209". 209 is a section of Evin prison known as the Security Detention Centre.

Saturday 7 October

[reportedly the day of Kianoosh Sanjari's arrest]

Last week I wrote a piece about a writer and producer of Islamic Republic TV News programmes. He phoned me from cell 350 at Evin prison. He said he had different responsibilities in the government, above all he was writer and producer of the news programme "Import and Distribution of contaminated meat". [this is a big issue in Iran] Apparently he used to work with Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the Keyhan newspaper, at Tehran Keyhan.

Tonight he phoned again and informed me that last Wednesday morning, he was transferred from Cell 350 at Evin prison to a detention centre in Islamshaht, where he was originally arrested. He said on Thursday, he was taken to No. 1 revolutionary court, where he was accused of spying for foreigners. He rejected this accusation. After the court hearing was finished, he was taken back to Evin prison.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvSpoiler alert: It has been talked about for months
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington
tv
Voices
Almost one in 10 of British soliders fall victim to serious psychiatric side-effects after being prescribed Lariam.
CHRISTMAS APPEALThis is how one charity is using that 'waste' to feed Britain's war heroes
Life and Style
Facebook has apologised after a new feature inviting users to review a collection of their 2014 highlights caused some to be confronted with pictures of their recently deceased family members and friends
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Property Manager

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Junior Property Manager in a yo...

Recruitment Genius: Web Development Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?