Syrian blogger's plea to fight for Internet freedom

9th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Syrian blogger who said he was tortured for expressing his opinions called on world governments Friday to step up the fight for Internet freedom, saying it allowed everyone to expose wrongdoing.

Access to social media has helped expose the violent crackdown on dissent in Syria, Amjad Baiazy told a conference hosted by Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal in The Hague.

In the last eight months in Syria "there has been thousands of (pieces of) evidence thanks to social media, not only to show the world, but also Syrians, of the crimes" happening there, Baiazy said.

"This is the main benefit of (Internet freedom). It has turned every citizen into a journalist. Every citizen can use Twitter to broadcast," he added.

Baiazy, now a content editor for Amnesty International, told how he "was arrested and tortured for expressing my opinions," and is awaiting trial for "weakening the national resolve."

He said that when the Syrian regime put down a similar revolt in 1982, ordinary people had no way of telling the world what was happening, and all traces of that uprising were wiped out.

"I urge governments of the world to fight to protect Internet freedom," Baiazy said.

UN rights chief Navi Pillay said last week that more than 4,000 people have been killed in the crackdown over the past eight months, and tens of thousands arrested by President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

At least 12,400 people are reported to have fled the country.

Dutch Foreign Minister Rosenthal told conference delegates a coalition of states had been formed to defend Internet freedom.

The coalition released a statement at the end of the conference to say it would share information on violations of free expression and human rights on the Internet.

The grouping comprises 14 states including Austria, Ghana, Mexico, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States.

"I believe governments can do a lot more. We must ensure an open Internet: free, accessible, dynamic and not subjected to any top-down control," Rosenthal said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who gave the keynote address on Thursday night, warned Internet firms to avoid offering "tools of oppression" to authoritarian Middle East regimes trying to crush democracy protests.

© 2011 AFP

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