February 22, 2001
Internet should remain a secure and accessible tool for social justice, says Prague meeting of communication activists. PRAGUE "Leave the Internet alone" This was the core message addressed to governments and big business by a group of lawyers, computer programmers, academics, and communications activists from East and West Europe who gathered here from February 18 to 22 to plan a defense of the Internet for social justice work.
The conference was organized by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), an international association of not-for-profit organizations which promote an Internet for social justice and development.
APC and its partners have been linking civil society organizations online since 1990. "APC is committed to giving a voice to activists and civil society groups who want to defend the Internet as an accessible and secure communications medium", says Karen Banks from GreenNet, APC member in the UK, and APC Europe Internet Rights project manager.
In the past, APC members and partners defended Website content which had been threatened by unreasonable government and commercial interests in South Korea, South Africa, the UK and Spain. At the Prague conference, the participants discussed various strategies to respond to these threats.
Among these is a Rapid Response Network (RRN) that would set up a technically and legally robust system to automatically replicate threatened content across the Internet within 24 hours.
"It was a new experience for me, as a lawyer, to have such an interested audience," quipped Andrea Monti, an Italian lawyer and President ofElectronic Frontiers Italy, who was one of the three lawyers advising the APC on the RRN, "and to see that APC, by forming these innovative coalitions, is working to create serious, viable solutions to counter threats to an open Internet".
Alan McCluskey, founding editor of 'Connected', and online magazine, emphasized that the Internet should be a tool "to empower people to express themselves," and that it should be used to "change things" and "bring learning into the life of the community."
Other participants pointed out that the rapid commercialization of the Internet and emerging global and national controls, with some states seeking to impose undue restrictions on Internet service providers, pose clear threats to what should be a free and open communications medium.
At the conclusion of the conference, the participants reached broad consensus that defending Internet rights is as much a defense of human rights as it is of people's right to communicate, regardless of where they live, social status, sex, political or religious belief.
APC members often were the first providers of electronic communication connections in their own countries and today work actively to defend and extend the democratic potential of the Internet as a powerful tool for social participation and change. The Prague Internet Rights meeting is their latest initiative to send a strong message to governments and big business across the world that the Internet should be kept open and used to protect the environment, promote human rights, peace, development and democracy.
APC (founded 1990) was the first globally interconnected NGO network of groups working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment. Though trivial from today's perspective, offering e-mail and computer conferencing services to civil society in the late 1980s and early 1990s marked a huge leap into the future. There was no better or more cost-effective way at the time for activists to get their messages out to the world.
Now, 10 years later, APC is still going strong and still pioneering new ways for civil society to use the Internet strategically. Our network of members and partners spans the globe, with presence in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America. APC: http://www.apc.org.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Contact: Karen Banks
APC Europe Internet Rights Project Manager
Tel 44 207 713 1941
APC Executive Director
Tel 27 11 726 1692