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.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Year 2 Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Bognor Regis!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Year 2 Teacher currently need...

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits