CPJ welcomes talks on code of conduct for Internet companies

New York, January 18, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the public disclosure today that leading Internet companies are in talks with human rights organizations, including CPJ, investors, and legal experts to draw up a code of conduct for technology companies that would safeguard the right to free expression and privacy of Web users.

The talks began last year but were not publicized. CPJ joined the forum in November and urged the group to make its work public. The forum brings together Google, Microsoft, Vodafone, Yahoo, a coalition of academic institutions called the OpenNet Consensus, investors such as ethical mutual funds, and human rights and press freedom organizations. On November 6, 2006, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon and Robert Mahoney, then CPJ senior editor and now deputy director, took part in talks with the group in New York.

“Governments around the world are jailing Internet journalists at a growing pace, with 49 bloggers, online editors, and Web-based reporters behind bars at the end of 2006,” said Simon. “Protecting the rights of these journalists to express ideas and exchange information without fear of reprisal is one of the highest priorities for the press freedom community today. We hope the forum will soon agree on a code of conduct that ensures that technology and Internet companies safeguards free speech, and on a mechanism for holding signatories accountable.”

The conduct of Internet companies has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of arrests in China of Internet writers such as Shi Tao. He received a 10-year jail sentence in 2005 after Yahoo helped Chinese authorities trace his e-mail exchanges with a New York-based news Web site. CPJ honored Shi with a 2005 International Press Freedom Award.

To learn more about the rise in the number of jailed Internet-based reporters and editors, read CPJ’s special report of journalists jailed for their work in 2006.