Social media key to human rights fight: Amnesty

Egypt, Libya show the power of tools like Twitter

It has been a year of people power triumphing through social media, Amnesty International has claimed.

In its 2011 annual report, the advocacy group claimed that social media had provided an opportunity for significant human rights change. International secretary general, Salil Shetty, said that recent conflicts in Egypt and Libya were examples of where online people power had triumphed.

“People are rejecting fear," Shetty said in a statement. "Courageous people, led largely by youth, are standing up and speaking out in the face of bullets, beatings, tear gas and tanks. This bravery – combined with new technology that is helping activists to outflank and expose government suppression of free speech and peaceful protest – is sending a signal to repressive governments that their days are numbered.

“But there is a serious fight-back from the forces of repression. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights.”

A statement from Amnesty International about the report also indicated that there is a battle for access to information, with the internet providing a new battleground for governments.

“A critical battle is underway for control of access to information, means of communication and networking technology as social media networks fuel a new activism that governments are struggling to control,” the statement said.

“As seen in Tunisia and Egypt, government attempts to block internet access or cut mobile phone networks can backfire — but governments are scrambling to regain the initiative or to use this technology against activists.”

However, the group warned of companies and non-government organisations attempting to play a part in repressing information.

"They must not become the pawns or accomplices of repressive governments who want to stifle expression and spy on their people," the groups stated.

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