As activists and ordinary citizens around the world are increasingly making use of the Internet to express their opinions and connect with others, many governments are intensifying their surveillance and censorship capabilities and taking legal or extrajudicial actions against bloggers and social media users.
The number of individuals in prison around the world for raising their voices online is on the rise. In 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that nearly half of imprisoned journalists were arrested for activities conducted online. In a 2013 report, Reporters Without Borders cited 149 incidents of imprisoned “netizens” in a just a selection of twelve countries. Though the motivations of governments vary from country to country, the goal—to silence “threatening” voices—is the same.
EFF supports the principles of free expression laid out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and believes that those principles must extend online. To that end, we work with groups and individuals around the world to fight back against the legal and bodily harms that bloggers, activists, software developers, and other Internet users face worldwide.
Our international case advocacy is centered around awareness-raising. Over the years, we have often heard from bloggers and other individuals who have been released from detention that shining a spotlight on their case helped lead to better treatment in prison or a speedier release. It is from this premise that we work, additionally ensuring that we have full support of an individual’s loved ones before we proceed with action.
We often collaborate with other organizations to assist individuals and their families in finding legal, financial, and other support. We have worked with organizations such as the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) and Global Voices Advocacy to work within the UN human rights mechanisms, initiate creative campaigns for detained individuals, and shed light on this global phenomenon.