UNESCO chickens out of Online Free Expression Day

No sooner had I written about RSF’s Online Free Expression Day came news that UNESCO had pulled out, at the last minute, from supporting the event. As reported on the RSF website:

“We are not fooled,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Several governments on today’s updated list of 15 ‘Internet Enemies’ put direct pressure on the office of the UNESCO director general, and deputy director general Marcio Barbosa caved in. UNESCO’s reputation has not been enhanced by this episode. It has behaved with great cowardice at a time when the governments that got it to stage a U-turn continue to imprison dozens of Internet users.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Unfortunately, it seems we have gone back 20 years, to the time when authoritarian regimes called the shots at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. UNESCO’s grovelling shows the importance of Online Free Expression Day and the need to protest against governments that censor.”

In other news, Ars Technica’s report on the RSF initiative matches my own critique of it:

The protests are a bit underwhelming, though the site design is quite nice. Users who want to participate enter their name and location, pick a slogan from a list (“Free speech before the Olympic games!”), and are then dropped into a sea of protesters arrayed before a background representing the location in question. The Chinese protest alone had more than 3,000 people involved when I checked in on it, though there’s not much to do except mouse over the onscreen placards to see where other protesters hail from. 

Also read:

The limits of online freedom and activism?
Revisiting Public Service Television – Some thoughts on a UNESCO ICT@PSB production
Podcasts for peace

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