September 9, 2008

IPI Welcomes Proposal for an EU Global Online Freedom Act

Text of press release by International Press Institute on 9 September

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, urges the European Commission to give due consideration to the draft EU Global Online Freedom Act (EU GOFA), recently introduced by a cross-party coalition of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), including Dutch MEP Jules Maaten. The EU GOFA would, if it were to become European Union law, help to promote the free flow of online information worldwide, and prevent European companies from assisting repressive governments to limit their citizens' access to the Internet.

"IPI broadly welcomes the efforts of Mr. Maaten and other MEPs to address the issue of unjust Internet censorship, and I hope they will result in Commission initiatives for ensuring that authoritarian regimes do not censor freedom of expression," said David Dadge, IPI Director.

According to information before IPI, the EU GOFA, a text modelled on the US Global Online Freedom Act and sponsored by eight MEPs representing the four largest political groups of the European Parliament, was presented by Mr. Maaten on 17 July 2008. The text is seen as a response to the political censorship enforced by authoritarian regimes in countries such as China, Belarus and Ethiopia, and lays down guidelines to prevent European technology companies from becoming complicit in online censorship abroad, or from assisting authoritarian regimes to identify cyber dissidents, as was allegedly the case with the US firm Yahoo!

Among other things, the EU GOFA calls for the establishment of an "Office of Global Internet Freedom" to protect and promote freedom of information abroad, for the compilation of an annual report designating those regimes that are the worst offenders in terms of restricting their citizens' access to the Internet, and for the allocation of 20 million euros each year to the development and distribution of technologies aimed at helping Internet users in afflicted countries to circumvent censorship.

Currently, the EU GOFA has no legal status, as legislative proposals can only be introduced by the European Commission. As yet, the Commission has not indicated its willingness to introduce a legislative proposal based on the text drafted by the group of MEPs led by Mr. Maaten.

Originally published by International Press Institute press release, Vienna in English 9 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Media. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.