Four years ago, when CPJ launched its Internet Advocacy program, we were met with lots of encouragement, but also some skepticism.
"Why do you need a program to defend the Internet?" one supporter asked. "You don't have a special program to defend television, or radio, or newspapers."
But the Internet is different. Increasingly, when it comes to global news and information the Internet is not a platform. It is the platform.
The scope of the National Security Agency's digital surveillance raises doubts about the U.S. commitment to freedom of expression online. By Joel Simon
Dear Attorney General Holder and Deputy Attorney General Cole: CPJ's board of directors rarely has seen the need to raise its collective voice against U.S. government actions that threaten newsgathering. Today, however, we write to vigorously protest the secret seizing of phone records of The Associated Press. The overly broad scope of the subpoena and the lack of notification to the AP represent a damaging setback for press freedom in the United States and set a terrible example for the rest of the world.
The Internet doesn't bring freedom. Not automatically, anyway.
That's one of the main messages of Rebecca MacKinnon's new book, Consent of the Networked, which had its New York launch at the offices of the New America Foundation last night. In a conversation with CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker, MacKinnon, a CPJ board member, said it's up to concerned citizens, governments, and corporations to make decisions about how the Internet is used. She contrasted the Twitter-powered revolt in Egypt last year with the "networked authoritarianism" of China, where corporations are collaborators in a system designed to preserve Communist Party rule.
Here's a quick pointer to an insightful Wall Street Journal op-ed about Internet freedom from CPJ board member (and former CNN colleague) Rebecca MacKinnon. She's based in Washington these days, a Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation, so she has plenty to say about inside the Beltway funding issues. But she's even more insightful on the growing global pressure on Internet journalists and activists and tactics to help them.
The WSJ piece confronts issues that CPJ deals with regularly, and not just in Asia. MacKinnon's Internet-related work ever since she left CNN has been mandatory reading for anyone interested in these issues, and over the years she's broadened her area of concentration well beyond the China focus she had while working from Hong Kong.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.