There’s a tendency of governments around the world, including those in the US and UK, to pass on questionable copyright laws, said the head of an international media watchdog.
Dunja Mijatovic – a representative for freedom of the media for the 56 countries that comprise the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), stated that both democratic and transition governments were reluctant to media and internet’s transparency.
“What I see during my work is fear,” she said.
“Last year we commissioned a study on media freedom in 56 states. The results are not very rosy. Governments are trying to restrict or suppress in the interests of security. Legislation is very hasty.”
The OSCE is an inter-governmental group that includes countries across three continents, taking in the EU, Russia and the transition countries of Eastern Europe, US & Canada.
Mijatovic made his argument by topping a recent Guardian poll (http://goo.gl/9ReYU) of those people who influenced the most the battle for internet’s freedom.
“There is a witchhunt in OSCE countries and beyond against bloggers and journalists. Media professionals worry about themselves and their families if they write particular stories or make the wrong social media comments,” she told the Guardian (http://goo.gl/O34ZV).
“The obsession to control the internet is showing we are not heading in the right direction, and the countries of the west are not immune to criticism – I have already raised ACTA an international intellectual property treaty that has been likened to SOPA, a US anti-piracy bill] with the president of the EU parliament.”
Most of Mijatovic’s work is focusing on countries where the media environment and internet freedom are less advanced; in addition, she regularly visits imprisoned bloggers and journalists, and lobbies privately and publicly for their release. Her role is to advocate – she’s having no formal powers to mandate any member state.
“If I see a problem, I raise it,” she said.
“In some parts of the world, the benefits of free speech are not seen, but censorship anywhere is censorship everywhere.”
“Some good things happen, which we welcome, but the most important thing is to maintain a dialogue and make sure a door is always open. I don’t think boycotting or cutting contact helps anyone.”
She continued by saying that people who spoke against their governments in certain countries are basically oppressed with charges.
“Charges are often really dubious: drug dealing, or terrorism [for example]. The internet for so many governments presents a way to change society for the better, and they don’t want this change – because they want to stay in power for ever.”
Lastly, she concluded that ultimately it is civil society – referring to media and activists – who is keeping the media and internet a free space. Also referring to the unconstitutional US legislation against intellectual property violations, she said:
“These showed an engaged civil society can stop these actions. Elsewhere, there’s an apathy.”
“People don’t speak up because they’re sleeping or because they’re afraid. As for me, the most powerful tool I have at my disposal is my voice.”