unesco has not granted its patronage to the internet freedom day promoted by by reporters without borders (RSF). RSF has complained that unesco turn-back was due to the pressure by some of the countries included by rsf in the list of 15 enemies of internet freedom. according to RSF the worst enemies of the internet are belarus, burma, china, cuba, egypt, ethiopia, iran, north korea, saudi arabia, syria, tunisia, turkmenistan, uzbekistan, vietnam, and zimbabwe.
in a previuos post on the mourtada’s case in morocco, i have argued about the urgence of defending freedom of expression denoucing any abuse, even in those countries where freedom is in most part, yet not fully, granted. i do not feel any contraddiction now in defending unesco’s decision of not supporting the rsf initiative. unesco cannot endorse an initiative where some of its member states are listed as enemies, because unesco is an organisation composed by 193 member states and it is normal that any decision, any position taken by unesco is the representation of the will of these members. it is not the role of unesco to make lists of “bad guys” among its members.
unesco and rsf, or civil society organisations in general, play complementary but extremely different roles. we cannot expect unesco to take a stand against some of its members exactly as we cannot expect rsf to follow only diplomatic negotiations with governments.
i do not agree when rsf says that unesco position has taken the clock back of 20 years, even if i think that rsf fight is right and i personally fully support it. but in order to obtain any result in this fight, it is important that everyone plays his/her role. complementary and different.
now that i have defended unesco’s position (i can imagine people in unesco’s headquarters in paris feeling much relived after my post ;-)) i think we should concentrate on the main message that should be retained from rsf report of internet freedom: “at least 62 cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned worldwide and only in 2007 more than 2,600 web sites, blogs, or discussions forums were closed or made inaccessible”. so, if you do not work for unesco and you do care about internet freedom, please visit this site.