The administrator of Blogme.gr, a Greek blog aggregation website had his house raided, his hard drive seized and was himself arrested by the Greek cybercrime division last week, after having been served with a libel lawsuit without prior notice, because a public figure was offended by a satirical blog that was linked to by his site. The outraged response by Greek bloggers was immediate and unprecedented, reaching in the hundreds of posts within two days of the raid. The developing story coincides with the Internet Governance Forum being hosted in Athens this week, to be attended by Internet luminaries, entrepreneurs and activists like Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn and Joi Ito and featuring panels on Openness and Freedom of Expression.
On a related note, Amnesty International recently put out a “Call to Bloggers“, to stand up for Internet freedom ahead of the IGF, while a representative of Reporters without Frontiers (RSF) will also be on hand to attend the meeting. RSF recently published it’s 5th Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index, which ranks Greece 32nd among 168 places, leading other EU15 members such as France and Italy, as well as the US, but lagging behind such countries as Namibia, Bolivia and Bosnia – Herzegovina.
Prior successes of the Greek cybercrime division include the arrest of Swedish programmer Rick Downes on charges of spreading spam via handshake. Greece also made international headlines four years ago because of the shortsighted and highly controversial electronic games ban. The government was forced by public outcry, both at home and abroad -as well as the intervention of the European Commission- to amend the law and later suspend and deprecate it as unconstitutional.
Update (31/10 01:00): For those of you abroad who want to bring the issue to the attention of IGF attendees and the media, today (Tuesday) is the day to fire off some protest emails at the IGF organizing committee and stage a placard demo in front of camera crews at the Divani, as the Openness theme will be kicking off at 10:00, featuring activist / entrepreneur Joi Ito (of CreativeCommons, OSI, Mozilla Foundation, Technorati, SixApart and MetaBrainz fame) among the panelists, while later at 17:30, Reporters sans Frontieres Internet Freedom Bureau head Julien Pain will be attending a workshop on “Freedom of Expression and Internet Filtering and Blocking by States”. TeacherDude has helpfully posted a sample protest letter to the IGF on his blog, and there’s also a related Openness chatroom over at the IGF Community Site.
Apparently, it’s tricky raising extracurricular issues at the Forum, as one attendee comments:
..it’s three days I try to get this case mentioned somewhere in this Summit, but still failed. And anyone only has 90 seconds to speak, which means that if you want to raise that point, you have to renounce to making any other point, including the ones you’ve been working upon for years in preparation to this Forum. Will try to do that again.
Attendees aware of the issue include freelance journalist Kieren McCarthy, who’s already written a revealing piece for the Reg (see below), Jose Murilo Jr., thanks to whom the story made it to Global Voices Online (it’s telling that, despite the hundreds of Greek bloggers, my country isn’t even on the GVO tag banner) and IGF blogger #104, Sascha Welter. Finally, RSF is organising a “24-hour online protest against Internet censorship“, from 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 7 till 11 a.m. on Wednesday in order to map Internet black holes and help combat censorship. Be sure to click and take part!
..I would have thought that before we move to Internet democracy, it would be rather reasonable to firstly enhance democracy in the Internet itself.
– Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, IGF Athens Opening Ceremony, 30/10/2006
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Related articles (in english): Slashdot, BBC Reporter’s Log, The Register, Instapundit, Wikinews, The Inquirer, Kieren McCarthy, Sascha Welter (1, 2), Jose Murillo Jr. (1, 2), David Utter (1, 2), Martin Belam, Academia Nervosa, Tech & Science News Updates, Techdirt, Teeth Maestro, Teacher dude (1, 2, 3), Karib Corner, UAE Community blog, Mel’s Diner, sickhboy, Newsvine, sugarenia, karaflos Metanastis, Don’t kiss The Frog, Serenity (1, 2), x-psilikatzoy, krizhere (1, 2), deviousDiva, RockingChair, Flubberwinkle, Political Words, open, in.site.rs, ANemos, EllasDevil, dimitri
..and in russian: Web Planet