18/11/2009 IGF banner incident
This year topics on the agenda of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) – in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt – are amongst others managing critical Internet resources, security, openness, privacy, access and diversity. On Sunday in their opening talks both the Egyptian Prime Minister and the Minister of Telecommunication were stressing especially the economic opportunities internet offers. Not one word was referring to the open character of internet, technical- and content wise. “Egypt’s legitimacy to host such a meeting is questionable as it has repeatedly been guilty of violations of online free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said.
However minister Tarek Kamel of Communication and Information Technology welcomed explicitly the two fathers of the internet – Sir Tim Berners Lee and Bob Kahn – both very much in favour of an open and inclusive internet. Tim Berners Lee gave a summary of the past twenty years of the Internet existence as we know it. There has been lots of debate about the open structure of internet – transparency and openness versus security and safety. Berners Lee: ‘But two webs will not work, it has to be one web. No matter which device you use. Not only a matter of the language and signs you use. This universality implies an international approach. As time went on, standards did not seem enough. The web had to serve humanity to its up most including the disabled, poor and illiterate.’ Berners Lee than officially launched the World Wide Web Foundation. With support from the Knight Foundation the WWW Foundation will not look at connecting computers or counting webpages: ‘we look at humanity and want to empower the people’. He closed with the announcement of a workshop the next day on the precise goals and tasks of the new foundation.
The IGF has had its political incident just a few hours before. The Open Net Initiative – related to the Hivos partner The Berkman Institute – had their banner removed at the start of their workshop. The banner was taken away by security officer removed because it referred to amongst others Tibet and the Great Firewall of China. After their presentation ONI announced to write a letter to officially protest to the UN/IGF organisation against this act of censorship. Robert J. Deibert: ‘ When we refused to remove it, their security guards bundled it up and took it away. If this is a form of internet governance than how can privacy, access and freedom of expression be seriously discussed at this congress?’
Also read the Jac sm Kee’s post on GenderIT
including the videoclip on of the situation at the APC website