Friday, January 28, 2005

Iran - Free the Bloggers II

I posted earlier today about the imprisoned Iranian bloggers. Here is an email I sent to:

Edoardo Bellando
Focal point for information technology
UN Department of Public information
(212) 963 8275

In regards to The Working Group on Internet Governance ( has an Iranian on the group.

Reporters Without Borders has strongly protested against the Iran's relentless efforts to stifle free expression online after the arrest of five webloggers in less than two months, the latest on 28 November 2004.

I trust you will be taking steps with the Iranian representative to secure the release of these individuals. It is outrageous that,

"At the same time, an Iranian delegate is sitting on a UN-created working group on Internet governance. The international community should condemn this masquerade," it added.

We do condemn it, do you?

His reply.

The Working Group on Internet Governance ( was set up
because UN member states, at the first phase of the World Summit on the
Information Society in Geneva last December, asked UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan to "set up a working group to investigate and make proposals for
action, as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005."

The task of
the group is to produce a report to facilitate the negotiations at the
second phase of the World Summit in November 2005.
The members of the Geneva-based Working Group were appointed by the
Secretary-General in their personal capacity and they don't represent
countries nor institutions.
But given the close interaction between the
Working Group and the World Summit, its members represent all opinions that
were voiced at the Geneva phase of the Summit. The group also reflects the
geographical variety of the UN membership.

Your message -- and the four others I received on the same topic -- will be
sent to the Iranian embassy in Geneva and hopefully will help release the
five bloggers. Unfortunately the United Nations is the servant of its
member states, not their boss
. We take orders from all 191 member states.
At the same time, in the field of human rights, we are supposed to chastise
our bosses -- a situation that always creates all kinds of tensions

In spite of this, the UN tries to do all it can to protect human rights --
just have a look at UNESCO, in particular,
is very active in the protection of journalists -- see

I have been dealing for years with human rights at my job in public
information, and I have come to the conclusion that just condemning doesn't
. We could condemn the arrests and expel the Iranian member (who by the
way is an information technology expert, like all other members). But
keeping Iran engaged and working with it will be more profitable.

I have also been a member for many years of Amnesty International (in the
US and in Italy) and more recently of Human Rights Watch. Human rights work
is hard and often disappointing. Reporters without Borders is known for its
harsh, high-profile criticism, and we need that. But we also need the more
patient and diplomatic work of the Committee to Protect Journalists and the
International Federation of Journalists, which (like Amnesty and HRW)
engage the authorities and in the end obtain results -- just see the
announcement of the release of a Cuban journalist on the CPJ web page --

With best regards,
Edoardo Bellando
UN Department of Public Information.

Sorry, Mr. Bellando, but if you think the members don't represent their countries, especially in light of the Internet crackdown in Iran, you're fooling yourself.

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