Paris hosts cyber-shelter for battered bloggers

24th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Paris-based media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders on Thursday launched a virtual "anti-censorship shelter" to protect bloggers around the world from repressive authorities.

The group (RSF) unveiled a room in its Paris headquarters set aside for fugitive journalists or bloggers from abroad to drop in and blog with secure Internet connections using software that masks their online identity.

The project also offers to provide carefully selected bloggers in other countries with free access to secure, anonymous online connections to make it harder for authorities to pursue them for their work.

"This will allow them to connect to the Internet securely, to help them continue their work as bloggers," the secretary general of RSF Jean-Francois Julliard told AFP at the launch of what he called the "virtual shelter."

He admitted that determined governments could find ways round the masked Internet addresses, but said the project could still help responsible bloggers avoid arrest -- a trend which RSF says is on the rise.

"If the CIA or other government agencies like that want to get round it they can, but this will make things much more difficult," Julliard said.

RSF estimates that about 120 people are in jail throughout the world as punishment for blogging and other forms of online journalism, singling out countries such as China, Vietnam and Iran.

The project won support from an editor of the Chinese news blog, who said two of the site's contributors have been jailed in China for publishing material online criticising the authorities there.

"It's important to get round censorship, for the Chinese people and for everybody" said the man, who is based outside China and asked to be identified only by his family name Wang.

This can be done "by using software etcetera... but the most important aim is to convince the Chinese to overcome their fear."

© 2010 AFP

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