Amnesty International (UK) sponsors a campaign on the website Irrepressible.info which seeks to internationally defend and support the cause of free speech. According to the about page of the site:

The web is a great tool for sharing ideas and freedom of expression. However, efforts to try and control the Internet are growing. Internet repression is reported in countries like China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. People are persecuted and imprisoned simply for criticising their government, calling for democracy and greater press freedom or exposing human rights abuses, online.

But Internet repression is not just about governments. IT companies have helped build the systems that enable surveillance and censorship to take place. Yahoo! have supplied email users’ private data to the Chinese authorities, helping to facilitate cases of wrongful imprisonment. Microsoft and Google have both complied with government demands to actively censor Chinese users of their services.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It is one of the most precious of all rights. We should fight to protect it.

Work like this matters. We are not talking about forwarding urban legends or jokes via email here. We are talking about actively working to support values like self-determination and human rights. Working to free the wrongfully imprisoned, and fight for the establishment of institutions which safeguard individual liberties and support the rule of just law. Consider the case of Shi Tao:

Chinese journalist, Shi Tao, is serving a 10 year prison sentence for sending an email from his Yahoo! account.

In 2004 Shi Tao sent details of an internal government directive instructing journalists how to handle media coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown to a US-based website.

He was charged with “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities’ and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Disturbingly Yahoo! China provided account holder information to the Chinese Government which led to his unjust imprisonment.

Students in our schools should know about these projects, the people who are suffering at the hands of unjust regimes, and the need to take action. What we take for granted in many countries, like the ability to send an email or post ideas to a blog page without fear of retribution, many people consider a pipe dream.

There are several ways to get involved and support the irrepressible.info campaign. These include signing a pledge on Internet freedom, undermining censorship by publishing fragments of censored material and links on your own website, and taking action to advocate for the release of individuals like Shi Tao.

Irrepressible.info is also sponsored by the OpenNet Initiative, which is “documenting Internet content filtering worldwide.” Consider getting involved in these campaigns, or at the very least letting your students know about them as they study issues relating to geography, economics, politics, etc in the weeks and months to come.

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