On the occasion of the first UN Access to Information Day, DW Internet freedom expert Oliver Linow takes a look at the importance of access to information.
When only the state television program is broadcast, when there are no more oppositional newspapers and demonstrators are forced off the streets - then the Internet remains. It offers access to free information. Dissenters can express themselves in blogs and social media without restrictions, and foreign information providers like DW provide fact-based news. The underlying journalistic values are based on an open and diverse world view.
People have been deprived of this right by their governments, especially in times of crisis, when the need for objective information is particularly great.
The most recent example is Belarus. More than 70 websites in the country were blocked following protests after the presidential elections in August.
In Kashmir, people had to go 213 days without internet, in China and Iran many international websites have been blocked for many years. Among them are the websites of DW and the BBC.
DW seeks to provide people around the world with access to reliable information. In some cases, this requires circumventing censorship.
My task as an Internet freedom specialist in the IT and Cybersecurity department is to create the technical and organizational conditions for censorship circumvention. Today, it is no longer enough to offer information, it must also be made accessible.
Of course, I cannot destroy firewalls and I do not hack into other people's computers. Metaphorically speaking, however, I provide ladders that enable one to bypass firewalls.
Up toone third of all Internet users in Belarus have used a censorship circumvent tool in recent months. In Iran, testing the best and newest tools has almost become a popular sport.
DW has considerably expanded its range of information on COVID-19 in 30 languages in response to the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. We have simplified access to information, especially to Corona-related news, with a technical solution so that people in countries with Internet censorship can also access it.
Technical censorship bypass is the only way to reach our audience in some countries. This is why the first-ever UN Access to Information Day on September 28 is so important. It focuses on the growing global problem of restrictions on the freedom of information and the media and demonstrates its importance to those who enjoy the right to information every day.
Read more: DW websites accessible via Tor Protocol