Liveblogging the United Nations "World Press Freedom Press Day" Panel

May 3, 2007 1:15 PM EST
It is “World Press Freedom Press Day” at the United Nations.
The US Mission to the United Nations is hosting a panel today at the UN titled “The Citizen Journalist: The Internet as a Tool for Freedom of Speech.”

The following speakers will present a status report on blogging worldwide today and the state of free expression online and will be available to answer questions:

Tala Dowlatshahi, New York Director, Reporters Without Borders

Nora Younis, Egyptian Blogger and Activist

Watson Meng, Founder, Boxun News

Frank Xie, Chinese Blogger, Boxun News (Assistant Marketing Professor, Drexel University)

Jeffery Krilla, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

– Moderator: Bridget Johnson, columnist and blogger LA Daily News

Moderator Bridget Johnson blogs at GOP Vixen and today has an important post explaining the oppression of journalists throughout the world:

“Democracy and the hunger for free speech are creeping across repressive societies, and the revolutionaries leading this charge are often the unlikeliest of soldiers – lone thinkers with minds for change and keyboards as their weapons. Linked to other warriors via the Internet, bloggers are finding that their views from politics to religion to pop culture share a unifying battle cry: a desire to speak freely.

Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman, a 22-year-old Egyptian student, blogged under the name ‘Kareem Amer’ starting in 2004. He captured authorities’ attention the next year. Soliman denounced attacks he witnessed by Muslims on Coptic Christian establishments and panned extremist views taught at Al-Azhar University in Cairo – and risked his life in the process. Things only got worse for Soliman.

‘It causes us to cry, be grieved, and be struck with frustration to find ourselves threatened with death,’ he wrote on May 7, 2006, after escaping 20 fellow students wielding knives, leather belts and sticks who had surrounded his taxi outside the university. ‘Not because we kill. Not because we loot others’ property. Not because we transgress the limits of our freedom. But because we think!’ In February, Soliman was sentenced to three years in prison for ‘insulting Islam’ and one year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak. ‘I shall not recant, not even by an inch, from any word I have written,’ read Soliman’s last blog post before his Nov. 6 arrest, when authorities were closing in. ‘These restrictions will not preclude my dream of obtaining my freedom.’

And so he sits in a prison, disowned by the father who said his son should be executed under sharia law if he did not repent. Egypt has turned a deaf ear to the growing global chorus demanding his freedom. Even the U.S. State Department has issued appeals on his behalf, says spokeswoman Elise Bower at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Bridget also has a column up at USA Today today on “When Bloggers Are Silenced.”

Watson Meng is talking about the popularity of Boxun News one of the biggest news websites in China.
It was founded in 2000.
It gained popularity because of the advantages of citizen journalism and because it is able to get the truth to the people despite the Chinese media censorship.

Watson talked about the heroes of internet journalism who are currently jailed in China.

Challenges facing Chinese bloggers and internet journalists are the great China firewall and foreign companies actually support the censorship. There is always a risk of being punished.

Frank Xie– Is a Chinese blogger and talked more on the situation in China. There are 137 million users in China or 10.5% of the population.

Personal blogs in China are very popular. One blogger has 87 million hits! Of course, not all blogs can be accessed.

China is actually a “gigantic intranet” like you would experience at a corporation here in the US. This gives them the ability to censor the information. China is exporting this technology to North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, etc…. An “Axis of Evil Censorship”.

Noura Younis– Brings a message from Egyptian bloggers— WE NEED INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT!
Bloggers, scholars, intellectuals, bloggers, etc.
We are at a critical moment in Egypt!

January 2005 there were less than 50 blogs in Egypt.
Today there are thousands!
There are 8 million internet users in Egypt!

One Alexandria blogger talked about the Copt-Muslim clashes.
Bloggers also talked about sexual harrassment and violence at the polling stations.
There have been several bloggers jailed or beaten in Egypt.
21 blogs are tagged by the regime including human right’s bloggers.
The new Constitutional Amendments that just passed make it very difficult for bloggers.
Egyptian Sandmonkey – His phone is tapped. He is harrassed and quit blogging.
Two bloggers are currently in jail. Kareem has wide international attention.
The other jailed blogger is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Noura Younis spent quite a bit of time discussing this other Muslim Brotherhood blogger.

Questions and Answers:
Blogspot is bl
ocked not just in China but in other countries Pakistan and Tunisia. Censorship is a global problem.

Atlas Shrugs is here!

Jeffery Krilla speaks more on press freedom during the question and answer period.

Here’s a picture from outside the UN- It was a beautiful day in New York:

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