EU ruling on terrorism and the Internet – What of State sponsored terrorism?

A while ago, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Dayan Jayatilleke left a comment on this blog in response to a post that looked at the investigation into the website of a registered Tamil political party in Sri Lanka well known to be partial to the LTTE, the Tamil National Alliance. In it he suggests that he was in favour of the judgement in Spain that banned Herri Batasuna, insinuating the same should be followed in the case of the TNA in Sri Lanka.

While jury’s out on that issue in Sri Lanka, Dayan may be elated at the news of the EU’s recent decision that makes “public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment and training for terrorism punishable behaviour, also when committed through the Internet” now a punishable offence. The EU decision notes that:

Individuals disseminating terrorist propaganda and bomb-making expertise through the Internet- can therefore be prosecuted and sentenced to prison insofar as such dissemination amounts to public provocation to commit terrorist offences, recruiting for terrorism or training for terrorism and is committed intentionally.

In these cases, courts or administrative authorities will be able to request internet service providers to remove this information according to national rules implementing the Directive on electronic commerce.

The Press Release of the EU decision ends of a self-congratulatory note, stating that it is “an excellent example of how the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes can be dealt with in a way which respects the freedom of speech.”

Bloody good and I mean that without the slightest reservation or hesitation. Terrorism must be prevented, curtailed and stopped for all the obvious reasons.

My question is what happens when States – member States of the UN – are those responsible for the acts of terrorism? Do the same rules apply then to content they post on their websites?

Funnily enough, the firm favourites du jour of the regime in Sri Lanka that include, inter alia, Russia, China and Iran all have rather peculiar attitudes towards inconvenient truths on the Internet and web. China’s attacks against Darfur activists this year, Russia’s epic attacks against Estonia last year and Iran’s fight against “immorality” on the web, that includes political content, suggest very much that it’s not only the terrorists the EU has in mind that are using the web and the Internet.

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