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Several North Carolina high school journalists covered the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Sarah Gilmour and Connor Ferry are the co-editors of The Hoofbeat, the student newspaper at Owen High School in Black Mountain. They wrote about a Democratic National Convention International Leaders Forum held on Sept. 4.


In Iraq, a woman was shot to death as a result of her participation in a peaceful protest.

In contrast, when Marietje Schaake disagreed with the prevailing viewpoints in her country, she was elected to the European Parliament so she could work on the problems she saw. Schaake wants her more positive experience to be the rule rather than the exception. She said that Internet technology is the way for that to happen.

“Human rights are universal and should be applied online,” Schaake said at the National Democratic Institute’s International Leader’s Forum at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center on September 4.

Marietje Schaake speaks to student journalists
Sarah Gilmour, Connor Ferry and Max Alford.
Photo by Monroe Gilmour.

During the Arab Spring, Schaake said, protests were centered around social media and communication via the Internet. A censored Internet, or an Internet blackout, would have severely limited the ability of protesters to organize resistance. Governments across the world realize this and are working to limit citizen access to this powerful tool.

Governments have learned both how dangerous the Internet can be to them and how they can use the Internet to violate the human rights of their citizens, Schaake said. In Iran, the government has blocked thousands of websites and has used existing websites to track protesters. Similar situations are found in many countries with oppressive governments.

Schaake is working towards ensuring everyone has access to a free, uncensored Internet. She is working in conjunction with the human rights organization WITNESS.

WITNESS uses videos posted on YouTube to spread the word about human rights abuses and violations. The ability of people to upload their stories and videos about such events empowers them and calls those around the world to act.

“Our world has changed remarkably fast,” Schaake said.

She said the ability for people to communicate about human rights violations helps hold the world accountable to recognize these abuses and help the people.

Communication via the Internet fuels change, as seen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. However, technology is not always beneficial to the people; it can help the oppressors.

An example of this, according to Schaake, is the Apple development of the technology to shut down video and recording capabilities of the iPhone and iPad in a certain area. While Apple’s purpose was to prevent illegal recording during concerts and other events, it can be used by governments to shut down all communication is a certain area central to protests. If this was used in an area such as Tahrir Square in Egypt, the repercussions would be incalculable.

“It is our job to fight it,” Schaake said in reference to the censorship of the Internet.

Schaake advises anyone interested in Internet freedom to stay informed on the International Telecom Meeting.


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