UN demands removal of China poster at Net event

November 16, 2009 By TAREK EL-TABLAWY , AP Business Writer

(AP) -- United Nations officials forced free-speech advocates to take down a poster over its reference to China's Web restrictions at an Internet conference focused on freedom, saying Monday that it violated a ban on posters at events organized by the world body.

The OpenNet Initiative, which focuses on Internet freedom around the world, had placed a banner at the Internet Governance Forum mentioning China's censorship of the Web. U.N. officials said an unnamed delegation objected to the poster, and others objected to another flier from the group also relating to China.

"We have a no poster policy, be they commercial or political," Markus Kummer, the forum secretariat's executive coordinator, told The Associated Press.

He said the OpenNet Initiative had been granted a meeting room after officials were unable to accommodate their late request for an exhibition booth at the forum.

The policy exists because "we don't want to turn into a censorship office," he said. "Had they had the booth, that would have been the place to put the poster."

Robert Deibert, one of OpenNet's co-founders, said his staff was instructed to remove it by U.N. officials because of the China references. He said he repeatedly asked to see a copy of the rules banning such posters at U.N.-sponsored events.

"They did not give us any, only referring to the objections of a member state," Deibert said.

The incident occurred Sunday, the first day of the gathering, which has drawn fire from some advocacy groups because of the choice of Egypt as a venue.

While the Egyptian government, unlike many other Arab governments, does not restrict Web access, advocacy groups say it does police the Internet with a particular focus on political bloggers. Such individuals have faced sharp crackdowns for critical postings.

The theme of this year's forum has been expanding Internet use in emerging markets and developing nations, with a focus on reaching out to the three-quarters of the world's population currently unable to access the Internet - whether because of restrictions, money or other factors such as illiteracy and disabilities.

Participants at the forum have stressed that opening the Net to a broader swath of the world was a key to development and economic growth and have noted that a good deal of the new users are those who access the Web through mobile devices.

That has been the case in Egypt, where there are now over 50 million mobile phone subscribers - people who government officials say may first experience the Web through such devices instead of computers.

Kummer said that the decision to have OpenNet remove the banner was a question of policy and that the U.N. does not want commercial sponsorship at its events. But at the forum, there were several other banners with the names of computer giant HP, as well as Vodafone, Egyptian provider LinkdotNet and the state's Egypt Telecom. All were listed as sponsors.

While one of the banners was located squarely in front of the main entrance to the conference, Kummer told the AP he had not been aware of their presence.

OpenNet's Deibert said there were other posters and banners in many of the other meeting rooms.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Software Circumvents Internet Censorship

Related Stories

Software Circumvents Internet Censorship

November 28, 2006

With the Dec. 1 release of psiphon software, developed by University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, people around the world will have access to a free tool enabling them to circumvent Internet censorship.

IPv6: Challenge to Internet freedom?

March 20, 2006

A China-backed Internet technical standard reportedly might allow the traceability of Internet users, especially those opposing government policies.

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.