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Communication Rights:
Use Them or Lose Them
(a People- & Planet-Friendly Special, Portal & Guide)

(A) Free Speech, Democracy and You
Free as in Freedom
Related Links, Resources, Organizations
Related Thoughts & Quotes

(A) Free Speech, Democracy and You

Do you care about peace, environment, or social issues? What sources do you depend on – in both your personal and community life – to inform, connect and empower? And what would happen if those sources disappeared – or were taken over by self-serving corporate or government interests?

"The last few months have seen numerous attacks on independent media by the US Federal Government."*

Last Thursday, the FBI seized two Indymedia-UK computers. According to the Independent Media Centre, commonly known as Indymedia, the result was the shutdown of twenty independent news websites across Europe and elsewhere.

The seizure came only days before the European Social Forum, Europe's major civil society gathering, in which Indymedia has a significant role. Ironically, Indymedia is also scheduled to participate in the European Forum on Communications Rights, concerning issues of electronic civil liberties and independent media.

"It is unclear to Indymedia how and why a server that is outside the US jurisdiction can be seized by US authorities."*

Power corrupts. In these times of govenment clampdowns on civil rights, and the ongoing struggle between popular and corporate control of the Internet, can we take free speech or even democracy itself for granted?

What can one do? There are many fun, inspiring and important ways you can help – big or small. As little as a few minutes a day can help lead to a more communicative, less violent, more sustainable world:

  • It's up to each of us to do whatever we can to support free speech and a free, diverse media. This especially includes the Internet and e-mail, both of which we've come to depend on for progressive approaches to building a just and sustainable world. More specifically...
  • Make good use of alternative media and websites including non-corporate and nonprofit sources of information. Links: Alternative Voices (2) | Magazines | Google Dir, based on Open Dir
  • Always question and discuss what you hear, and seek a variety of viewpoints. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth. Learn clear and critical thinking, and develop strong community communications. Critical Thinking (2) | Community communications & group process
  • Realize that the Internet and e-mail are not "techie" issues. They have become central to democracy and freedom. It is foolish to give excessive control to proprietary, monopolistic companies – whether hardware, software or service providers. Again, power corrupts. Make sensible choices based on an awareness of Internet issues and concepts such as Open Source. The Internet | Open Source (2) (3) | Open Content (2)
  • Educate yourself about the role of media, communications and activism in society. Media & communications links: Media Issues | Media Issues & Alt Media | What's Wrong with the Media? | What Can You Do? | Activism
  • Pitch in. Help out your favourite alternative media/communications project with your time, money, or by helping spread the word. For example, here's how you can help Indymedia... IMC UK: Financial Support. | Indymedia.org: Volunteer | Financial Support | Process (2)

We've also included a selection of useful links, resources and organizations, in section C, below.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let's give thanks for the communications we often take for granted – the ideas and inspirations that are essential for growth and survival. And let us remember that in today's complex society, our wellbeing will depend on our approach to communications, the Internet and the media.

Power corrupts. Without diverse, democratic communications, we are nothing.

– Peter Blanchard

*Indymedia Press Release (2) | Indymedia/Independent Media Centre/IMC UK (2)

(B) Free as in Freedom

When we say "free", do we mean free as in "free beer" – or as in "free speech"?

Do we mean free-of-charge – or free of oppression and centralised control?

Whether mainstream or alternative, those who prepare and distribute information cannot survive without money. Unless, that is, they survive on advertising – which is a very slippery slope. They too must eat and pay the rent. If you've ever tried to communicate with a large audience day after day, you know how much it takes – even for something as seemingly simple as a website or e-mail newsletter.

When people say "information should be free" (as in free beer) they are in effect advocating for corporate, advertising- dependent media. But taking society's communication channels for granted leads only to the destruction of those that are relatively free and independent (as in free speech).

We should never take freedom for granted.

The confusion comes, at least in part, from a shortcoming in the English language. In French, there are two very different words: "gratuit" means free-of-charge (e.g. free beer), while "libre" means freedom (e.g. free speech).

So think free as in freedom, not just free beer. Support your favourite sources by making good use of them, helping spread the word – and if possible, contributing some time or money.

Ignore them – and they will go away.

– Peter Blanchard www.planetfriendly.net

Support... IMC UK: Financial Support.
Indymedia.org: Volunteer | Financial Support | Process (2)
Find an Indymedia near you – go to:
www.indymedia.org and look down the left column for the list of local and regional Indymedia's around the world.
Other Independent & Alternative Media (2) (3) (4)

(C) Related Links, Resources, Organizations

Indymedia Servers Seized by FBI – Indymedia UK's own coverage (2)
Media coverage:
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting | CommonDreams.org | ZMag.org | PCAdvisor | Infoshop.org | DMEurope | PCPro | SMH | Intimidation, not Crime Busting | More | Latest News
Sign the
Indymedia Solidarity Declaration

Free Speech – Links, Resources, Organizations, Organizing: (1) (2) (3)
Freedom of the Press:
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (2) (3)
Canada | US

Communication Rights | European Forum of/on Communication Rights (Oct., 2004, London, England)

Censoring The Internet: How The Digital Revolution Is Being Curbed (Oct. 2004, Toronto, Canada) (2)

The Internet and the Law (Conference, Ottawa, 2004) | More | (2)

Freedom of Information (2) | Open Government Canada

Privacy Human & Political Privacy | Internet & E-mail Privacy
U.S. Patriot Act's Reach is a Concern for Canadians (Globe & Mail, Oct. 14, 2004)

Human Rights & Liberties (2) (3)

What's Wrong with the Media? | Indymedia.org (international site) (scroll down left column for links to national & regional sites) About (2) (3)
Independent & Alternative Media –
Links, Resources, Org's | Defined | More (2) (3)
Media Issues (2) | Media Watchdogs (2)

Effective Communications, Thought & Group Process: Critical thinking | Community communications & group process | Group Think | Become the Media | E-Communications

Open Content, Open Standards, Open Source (2)
Creative Commons | Defined | Canada

European Social Forum | World Social Forum | Toronto Social Forum | Article

War, 'Free' Trade & Corporate Globalization ...vs. Democracy, Sustainable Living & Dev't? Trade & Globalization | War & Peace (2) | Democracy (2) (3)

(D) Quotes & Inspiration
Freedom of the Press | What is Indymedia? | Computer Seizure | Power, Gov't & the 'New World Order'

(1) Freedom of the Press

"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." – Thomas Jefferson

"The free press is the mother of all our liberties and of our progress under liberty." – Adlai E. Stevenson

"A free press can of course be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom it will never be anything but bad." – Albert Camus

"Limiting the freedom of news 'just a little bit' is in the same category with the classic example 'a little bit pregnant'." – Robert Anson Heinlein

"Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose." – George Orwell

"There has never been an objective news story written, even if it was only one paragraph. And that is because of selection: somebody selected what's in that article – and what is not." – Barrie Zwicker

"Objectivity in journalism is advocacy for the status quo". – Tom Wicker

"It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper." – Jerry Seinfeld

"Freedom of the press, or, to be more precise, the benefit of freedom of the press, belongs to everyone – to the citizen as well as the publisher... The crux is not the publisher's 'freedom to print'; it is, rather, the citizen's 'right to know.' " – Arthur Sulzburger

"Let it be impressed upon your minds, let it be instilled into your children, that the liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, and religious rights." – Junius

"In newspaper and TV headline news, a constant stream of sensational and alarming events parades across our numbed consciousness. Most of these ephemeral and mostly irrelevant "news" stories quickly vanish, only to be replaced by fresh distractions. Media mesmerizations are usually presented with little or no context, consideration or appropriate priority. Is this just pandering to the shallow self interest and shortsightedness of "human nature" – or a deliberate design to hide the truths that threaten to "deconstruct" the consumer fantasy world corporate- controlled media has built to market fear and greed?" – Paul Grignon & William Thomas

What's wrong with the media? | More Media Quotes

(2) What is Indymedia?

"Indymedia – as the Independent Media Centres are known – is a network of more than 140 national and thematic 'open-publishing' web sites where independent activists or journalists can publish their news articles, stories and other material online, with no editorial filter.

Created in 1999 to report on the protests against the World Trade Organisation's ministerial conference in the U.S. city of Seattle, Indymedia has since become the main news source of the anti-globalisation movement, continuing to serve as an alternative to mainstream media outlets worldwide." – CommonDreams.org

(3) Indymedia Computer Seizure

"It is unclear to Indymedia how and why a server that is outside the US jurisdiction can be seized by US authorities." – ZMag

"The list of affected local media collectives includes Ambazonia, Uruguay, Andorra, Poland, Western Massachusetts, Nice, Nantes, Lilles, Marseille (all France), Euskal Herria (Basque Country), Liege, East and West Vlaanderen, Antwerpen (all Belgium), Belgrade, Portugal, Prague, Galiza, Italy, Brazil, UK, part of the Germany site, and the global Indymedia Radio site. " – ZMag

(4) Power, Government and the 'New World Order'

"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" – Lord Acton (2)

"The greatest purveyor of violence on earth is my own government." – Martin Luther King, Jr. (2) (quoted by former U.S. Attorney General, Ramsey Clark (2)

"Freedom is participation in power". – Cicero

"Powerlessness and silence go together. We... should use our privileged positions not as a shelter from the world's reality, but as a platform from which to speak. A voice is a gift. It should be cherished and used." – Margaret Atwood

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction" – Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Will we ever get to the point that we realize we will be more secure when the rest of the world isn't living in poverty so we can have nice running shoes?" – Michael Moore (2) (3)

"Myth: Only protestors are activists. Reality: Anyone can be an activist. An activist is someone who takes action to make things better." – activist.ca | All About Activism

"Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles." – Abbie Hoffman, U.S. activist (1936-89)

"In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Catholic. Then they came for me... and by that time, there was no one to speak up for anyone." – Martin Niemoeller, Pastor, German Evangelical (Lutheran) Church (attributed, HRWeb)

Communication Rights: Use Them or Lose Them. (first published Oct. 2004)
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