Bloggers Worldwide Blast India's Ban - InformationWeek

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7/20/2006
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Bloggers Worldwide Blast India's Ban

Bloggers are requesting that India's prime minister lift a ban on Web sites and blogs.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has joined with Indian bloggers in requesting that India's prime minister lift a ban on Web sites and blogs.

India banned thousands of blogs last week while trying to block 17 blogs and Web sites that India's telecommunications department claimed spread religious hatred. After a government order issued July 13, Internet service providers cut off access to domain names instead of targeting specific sites. The order came after bombings that killed at least 182 people on Mumbai's commuter trains on July 11.

Bloggers from around the world expressed outrage and likened the government of the democratic country to China's dictatorship. CPJ said the Internet ban cut readers off from news and other important information. The group appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to lift the ban.

"The Committee to Protect Journalists is troubled by the government's recent order to ban certain Web sites, an action that has resulted in blocked access to domains hosting many thousands of Web logs," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon wrote.

"We urge you to lift the ban, which has disrupted the flow of news, information, and commentary in a medium of growing importance in India. We are concerned as well that the order was imposed with no official explanation and without judicial or independent review."

India's Deputy Consul General in New York, A.R. Ghanashyam told the South Asian Journalists Association that a computer emergency response team called for the ban. He said it targeted Web pages with "extremely derogatory references to Islam and the holy prophet, which had the potential to inflame religious sensitivities in India and create serious law and order problems."

ISPs in India told reporters they received an order to block access to specific Web sites with no explanation about why those sites were listed. Bloggers and journalists in India said they were blocked from blogs hosted by blogspot.com, typepad.com and geocities.com.

Simon said the ban "impeded the flow of information, news and opinions during a time of national crisis."

"As a non-governmental organization dedicated to defending press freedom around the world, CPJ joins with our colleagues in India who have demanded greater transparency in state efforts to intervene in Internet content and access," he wrote. "Especially in a country like India, with a strong history of press freedom, any effort to limit or control the Internet should be subject to judicial or independent review and narrowly tailored to address urgent national security concerns. We urge Your Excellency to lift last week's ban and to clarify publicly all government's efforts to block Web sites and filter Internet content."

The Hindu has published the government order naming the originally banned blogs.

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