On November 27, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) launched a revolutionary website, appropriately named We Fight Censorship (WeFC), devoted to publishing content by victims of censorship.
As the crackdown on information freedoms intensifies around the world, this website is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise tense period.
The war on Internet freedom continues to claim victims all over the world. The main page of WeFC draws attention to a few unsettling statistics. According to the “freedom barometer,” 130 “netizens” (i.e., citizen journalists) have presently been jailed and 45 have been killed because of their journalistic activities. Those numbers coincide with the recent surge against Internet freedom provoked by a now-infamous anti-Muslim film.
WeFC aims to “make censorship obsolete” and complements other RWB activities in defending freedom of information. The website is offered in both English and French with the ability to translate into any language. It is designed to be easily duplicated in order to give the censored content “as much visibility as possible.”
WeFC provides information to the public on how and why authoritarian regimes censor publications, citing tools such as blackouts, filtering, and propaganda. It also takes extra measures to ensure the safety of the authors by submitting the publications anonymously.
WeFC provides “a deterrent designed to encourage governments and others to respect freedom of information,” according to RWB secretary-general Christophe Deloire. RWB’s ultimate hope is to take advantage of the “Streisand effect”: The more content is censored, the more the Internet community tends to circulate it.
WeFC also has a fundamentally better approach to combating censorship than organizations such as WikiLeaks. Whereas WikiLeaks has focused its efforts on harming free and open Western nations, WeFC’s aim is to facilitate the voices of the oppressed in truly totalitarian societies.
Content has already been received and published on the website from brave authors in Chad, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Iran, Cuba, and Eritrea. Topics range from violent crackdowns on public demonstrations to the shutdown of the private press. An article from Belarus captures the unjustified banning of peaceful protests and brutal arrest of hundreds of protesters, complete with pictures and video footage.
WeFC is an important initiative that deserves support. The Heritage Foundation has suggested ways to intensify the war on censorship through speaking out against Internet freedom’s worst offenders and creating a coalition of nations against censorship. These actions, married with the work of WeFC, could be a major step toward defeating Internet censorship.
Caitlin Duvall is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm