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Moving from Pen and Paper to Digital May Mean Progress, But Suppression Continues, Says Amnesty International

Human rights organization cites 2011 as the deadliest year for online activists; welcomes U.S. State Department ‘Free the Press’ initiative

WASHINGTON - On the eve of World Press Freedom day, Amnesty International says that some countries are blocking search engines, charging the exorbitant fees for internet, torturing activists to obtain their Facebook and Twitter passwords and passing laws that control what people can (and cannot) talk about online.

These are just some of the ways in which nations from China to Syria, Cuba to Azerbaijan are preventing journalists, bloggers and activists from speaking out about human rights abuses. Criticizing authorities online is so dangerous that 2011 was considered the deadliest year for online activists in many countries – with several 'netizens' killed in Bahrain, Mexico, India and Syria.

Yet journalists, bloggers and activists are coming up with new ways to by-pass internet controls and ensure their voices are heard by millions across the world.

"The opening of the digital space has allowed activists to support each other as they fight for human rights, freedom and justice around the world," said Widney Brown, senior director for international law at Amnesty International. "States are attacking online journalists and activists because they are realizing how these courageous individuals can effectively use the internet to challenge them."

In its global overview of the current climate for reporters, Amnesty International reveals that journalists working in traditional media outlets from Pakistan to Colombia, Mexico to Sudan, plus most nations across Eastern Europe and the Middle East, have faced harassment, attacks, unfair imprisonment or even death just for doing their job.

"Journalists confront an increasing number of perils in finding and telling the truth," said Frank Jannuzi, head of the Washington, D.C. office for Amnesty International USA. "We welcome the efforts by civil society groups, professional associations and the U.S. Department of State to highlight the work of these brave reporters.

"From traditional media to Twitter, blogging to audio and video messaging, the freedom of the press is the cornerstone of a free society," added Jannuzi. "No government should detain or imprison someone for reporting reality or expressing their opinion. Anyone being held for speaking truth to power must be released immediately and unconditionally."


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