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RSF concerned about threat to online free expression from imminent international accord

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the threat to online free expression from measures to combat digital piracy and copyright violations in an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that is currently being negotiated. The next three-day round of talks about the proposed agreement are taking place from 26 to 28 January 2010 in Mexico.

A total of 39 countries including Australia, France, Mexico, Morocco and the United States, and the European Union, are participating in the negotiations, which government officials are conducting in secret without consulting NGOs or civil society groups. The European Parliament has not even had access to the negotiating documents.

It is extremely regrettable that democratic debate has been eliminated from talks that could have a major impact on such a fundamental freedom as free expression. Transparency in such matters is a requirement that is neither negotiable nor subject to commercial imperatives.

Reporters Without Borders calls on the members of the European Union and other governments to explain the following measures, which appear to have been included in the draft agreement and which would greatly endanger online freedom of expression:

- Banning mechanisms for circumventing content filtering or blocking, which would prevent citizens in countries such as Iran or China from evading censorship;
- Punishing people who download content illegally by cutting their Internet connections, thereby limiting their access to information, although it does nothing to prevent the actual piracy;
- Automatic content filtering, which limits freedom of expression and is illegal if not approved by a judge.

Read and sign the open letter to the European Parliament that has been signed by Quadrature du Net, Reporters Without Borders, Electric Frontier Foundation and some 30 other NGOs

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