US intensifies efforts for worldwide Internet freedom
Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

The US State Department will address Internet freedom when it evaluates countries around the world in the next release of its annual Human Rights Report, Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, said on 20 December.

Dobriansky made the announcement of the next phase for the department’s Global Internet Freedom Task Force (GIFT) at a State Department ceremony. She told the assembled policymakers and representatives from the technology industry, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and academia that the Human Rights Report to be released in 2007, which will cover activities in 2006, will include Internet freedom activities. Governments that restrict Internet freedom or in any way punish those who lawfully use the Internet will be cited, she said.

The United States will strive to expand access to the Internet for people the world over, Dobriansky said, because the United States considers unrestricted, lawful use of the Internet part of the fundamental human right of freedom of expression. She said the United States also plans to increase its dialogue with international partners to press other governments to live up to their existing international commitments regarding freedom of expression.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice established GIFT on February 14 as an internal State Department coordination group that works with other US government agencies and the National Security and National Economic councils to maximize the free flow of information and ideas, to minimize the success of repressive regimes in censoring and silencing legitimate debate and to promote access to information and ideas over the Internet.

Through multiple US government programs (including US Agency for International Development projects and the Telecommunications Leadership Program) and public-private partnerships (the Digital Freedom Initiative), the United States promotes expanded Internet access and the availability of information and communication technologies in developing countries.

Since 2004, the United States has spent more than $250 million on projects that include providing telecommunications infrastructure, Internet access, computer hardware and support for regulatory reform to ensure sustainable infrastructure development. These projects also include designing Web sites and databases, and training in information and communication technologies (ICTs).

(Source: US Department of State)