Freedom of speech is gradually being eroded around the world despite the rise of blogging and ever-increasing access to the internet, according to human rights campaigners.
A new study by Amnesty International suggests that although more and more individuals and groups are exercising their right to air their views and beliefs online, so the crackdown by oppressive regimes is also intensifying.
It is easy to take such freedoms for granted. But there is growing evidence of erosion, even on our own doorstep – images of a pensioner being man-handled from the Labour party conference for daring to “heckle” the foreign secretary as he attempted to justify our involvement in Iraq being one of the most glaringly obvious examples.
Too often in recent years in this country, constructive debate and informed discussion has been overtaken by shouting matches. It now seems accepted practice that whoever can manipulate the media most skillfully wins the debate, or on a more basic level whoever manages to shout the loudest and acts most aggressively is right.
We cannot afford to be complacent and believe that we are immune from such supression of basic freedoms.
Amnesty International is now calling on the tens of millions of bloggers around the world to support its campaign to keep a close watch on those attempting to censor blogs and websites.
The Internet Governance Forum is also lobbying the United Nations regarding our basic freedoms and the internet (http://www.intgovforum.org/).