Wednesday, September 21, 2005

To: Free Access to Information

To: Free Access to Information
Members of the Civil Society Bureau of the WSIS, We, the undersigned, representing civil society organizations in Iran, technical professionals, human rights organizations, women's organizations, academics, professionals, and concerned citizens, would like to express our serious concern and strongly object to the policy of filtering and blocking of information on the Internet in Iran, particularly information related to women's issues and gender. The policy of filtering of information on the internet in Iran has taken on an extreme form in recent months. Of particular concern is the fact that most sites containing the terms, sites and URLs related to women and gender have been blocked by Internet Connection Providers (ICPs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), due to orders by the judiciary and other governmental authorities. The problem is so severe in fact, that the term women and gender cannot be searched, and sites with information on women's health, education, violence against women, gender issues, including UNIFEM's site have been closed by almost all providers. Several efforts to address the issue of filtering are taking place in Iran and a small group working on access to information on women and gender has been formed. The group is currently collecting data as to the extent of this problem and plans to take up the issue with Iranian authorities. It should be noted that the Iranian government has signed the Declaration and Action Plan of the Governmental Summit of the WSIS in December 2003 and as such has committed itself to implementing the WSIS Action Plan, which includes as one of its main areas, access to information on the internet. We feel strongly that this policy, which is decentralized through special governmental directives targeting individual ICPs and ISPs, is damaging to women and their human rights, and is not inline with universal concepts of free speech. This policy also negatively impacts professionals working with women, including health and education professionals, academia, non-governmental organizations and civil society in general. Additionally, this policy demonstrates an attempt to politicize women's social concerns and marginalize their needs and demands. We ask the WSIS Secretariat and the Civil Society Bureau of the WSIS to follow-up with Iranian authorities about filtering and blocking of information on the Internet in Iran, but especially information on women and to demand that the Iranian government to live up to its commitments with respect to the WSIS Action Plan.
Sincerely,

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