Over the past few months a worldwide protest movement has arisen with the aim of stopping various planned legislative moves for tighter regulation and control of the internet. Opponents of these proposed laws believe they endanger freedom on the internet. Yet the debates waged on this matter have also made it clear that “Freedom on the Net” has different shades of meaning in different states. In many autocratic states it primarily means the simple freedom to speak your mind without fear of physical reprisals.
FutureChallenges has seen through its bloggers how the internet gives people in authoritarian states a voice with which they can draw attention to their situation. This is why futurechallenges.org in partnership with theInternetundGesellschaftCo:llaboratory and theKonradAdenauerStiftung has now launched the irrepressiblevoices.org project. A special channel on YouTube is dedicated to showing how FutureChallenges’ and other bloggers can engage with social media to put the spotlight on violations of human rights, and how activists and bloggers can encourage other people to take a stand.
In a globalized world it’s not just markets that are moving ever close together but people as well – and the internet is one of the key channels for bringing them closer together. The newly launched irrepressiblevoices.org project should help to give a voice to those many people who otherwise cannot easily make themselves heard.
This blogpost has originally been published on futurechallenges.org.
Next week the 3rd Arms Trade Treaty Prep Com at the United Nations in New York (July 11-15th) will take place. The purpose of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is to set up legally binding rules to regulate the global arms trade. Questions like: which weapons will be integrated in a regulating mechanism? Will small arms and light weapons be included? Should aspects like human rights be considered when arms exports to authoritarian countries are coming under scrutiny?
The last question has become a pressing issue in Germany. The news magazine “Der Spiegel” has reported that Germany plans to sell 200 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi-Arabia. These tanks could also be used against demonstrators says a German security expert. Now, in the Prep Coms Germany has supported a human rights based approach to an ATT – see the statement made by a Belgian special envoy speaking on behalf of the European Union:
“An ATT should prevent conventional weapons from being used to contribute to armed conflicts, trans-national organized crime, terrorist acts, serious human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, which undermine peace, security, regional stability, and sustainable social and economic development.”
The German government does not seem to be concerned about possible human rights violations in Saudi-Arabia like a crackdown of Saudis who are protesting in favor of reforms or violence against protesters in nearby Bahrain (like it happened in March). Instead, the argument goes like this:
Iran is pursuing regional power ambitions => Iran is kind of an enemy and a threat for regional stability => Saudi-Arabia should be supported to be a counterbalance to Iran in the region=> If we don’t deliver them the US, Spain or others will do it.
Obviously the German government hasn’t noticed the momentum of human-rights in the Arab world. Instead of sending tanks to Saudi-Arabia the German government should stick to its declared goal of trying to prevent human rights violations. What else would you call a possible use of German tanks for cracking down protests in Saudi-Arabia or Bahrain?