According to a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report released December 4, of the 125 media workers in prison – a list that includes Ibrahim Jassam, a photographer held in US custody in Iraq – more of them published online than in any other medium.
The majority of online journalists behind bars come from China, the most high-profile of the many countries where Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have been accused of complicity with human rights violations. CPJ cites the Global Network Initiative as one effort to address this. Developed by these companies in cooperation with investors, academics and human rights organizations, the initiative details a set of principles aimed at protecting users’ freedom of expression and privacy. It’s difficult to tell whether the voluntary program will rein in the actions of the corporations.
“They’ve been named and shamed before, and their behavior has not really changed,” said Antony Loewenstein, author of The Blogging Revolution. Participants are asked to assess their impact in new markets and to maintain transparency, but they are not required to break local laws or pull out of offending countries.
Meanwhile, Loewenstein stressed his faith in the motives of, if not Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, then the human rights groups involved. “I’m skeptical only because I’ve seen these companies operating in China, and it’s really ugly,” he said. “I’m happy to be proven wrong.”