EU ‘may monitor censorship’-Irish Times

April 23, 2012

Charlie Taylor

Irish Times: April 17, 2012

German president Joachim Gauck is welcomed by European Parliament president Martin Schulz (R) at his arrival at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today. [Vincent Kessler/Reuters]

The European Commission could step up monitoring of internet censorship by autocratic regimes such as China, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

MEPs meeting in Strasbourg tomorrow are expected to pass a resolution calling on the commission for more support to promote freedom of the media, to protect independent journalists and bloggers and help reduce the digital divide.

A draft resolution to be put before MEPs in a new human rights report urges greater monitoring of exports of tools that can be used to block websites.

The resolution calls on the European Commission to submit regulatory proposals by 2013 which would include increased greater scrutiny of telecom firm and internet service providers based in the EU.

Vodafone was among the companies singled out for criticism by MEPs today over its decision to assist autocratic regimes while the internet search giant Google was praised for its decision to suspend services in China because of censorship issues.

It emerged last year that Vodafone had given in to demands from the Egyptian authorities in the last week of the Mubarak regime to suspend services, to disseminate pro-government propaganda and to monitor political opponents.

“Vodafone must learn from doing (Hosni) Mubarak’s bidding and due credit be given to Google for withdrawing from China,” said Richard Howitt MEP, the report’s author.

“Just as there is a race for those harnessing new media for democratic purposes, there are those who would use technology to suppress democracy,” he added.

The human rights report also calls for a better enforcement of children’s rights, the creation of an EU Special Representative on Human Rights and urges the European Union to co-operate more consistently with the International Criminal Court.

Seven member states have still not enacted national legislation on cooperation with the court and these are urged to do so immediately.


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