Pressing for Freedom
www.rsf.fr When they’re not tossing pictures of jailed journalists at Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s breakfast plate during a visit to Paris or throwing truckloads of oranges at a Cameroon Airlines office (and demanding that they be given to a jailed journalist in Cameroon), the activists at Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), or Reporters Without Borders, are ...
When they’re not tossing pictures of jailed journalists at Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s breakfast plate during a visit to Paris or throwing truckloads of oranges at a Cameroon Airlines office (and demanding that they be given to a jailed journalist in Cameroon), the activists at Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), or Reporters Without Borders, are busy updating and increasing their profile online.
Since its founding in 1985, Reporters Without Borders has made its top priority doing "everything in its power to get journalists out of prison and to condemn attacks on press freedom," according to its site, which debuted in 1994. RSF is a prime example of how an NGO’s Web presence can multiply its effectiveness. The site averages around 2,000 hits daily and encourages visitors to sign petitions to free journalists across the world; publications can also "sponsor" jailed journalists. The Internet has also allowed RSF to up its media presence, helping the organization get mentioned more than 500 times in the English-language press in the last year alone.
"In the last 10 years we produced an amazing volume of information with regard to press freedom," said Alexander Levy, research coordinator at the group’s headquarters in Paris. "The Internet is the only way to compile all of this." And compile it does: With hundreds of protest letters and statements archived, rsf.fr is a virtual monument to the victims of repressive leaders. For example, the group’s recently released report, "Enemies of the Internet," catalogues the restrictive measures used "to block the free circulation of information in 59 countries," including Iran, where an e-mail message is unlikely to reach its intended recipient if it contains the words "mujahedin," "freedom," or "sex." According to RSF’s webmaster, the report drew more than 10,000 hits its first day online.
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