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e-Democracy update - 9/11/05

09 November, 2005
By Daniel Macpherson

More Broadband Needed In Australia’s Regional Areas

A new report has found national broadband expansion could boost regional Australia’s export potential.

Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) "State of the Regions" report for 2005-06 shows a $3bn investment in Australia's regional broadband could enhance Australia's potential use of information and communication technology.

The report also shows such an investment could create over 10,000 new jobs.

ALGA President Paul Bell says that the report clearly demonstrates the benefit of well-targeted investment by government and others in expanding broadband.

"We must get on with the task of building our nation through major investment in improving and extending broadband. The regions that need the most help will gain the most benefit," he said.

The report also shows the South Australian Murraylands region having the lowest population coverage for broadband Internet service across Australia, with a 44 per cent coverage rate in comparison to a 90 per cent national average.

Visit the ALGA website here.

Bloggers debate over French riots

Bloggers have expressed their anger over the deaths of two teenagers that have caused recent riots in France.

One blogger says the two teenagers, Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17, "died for nothing" and that "[everyone is] tense, we are all irritated and we are all mourning."

Another blogger has launched threats against police with one saying, "Clichy is avenging you," in reference to the town of Clichy-sous-Bois where the two teenagers died.

The two teenagers died from electrocution while they climbed into an electrical sub-station in Clichy-sous-Bois in an attempt to hide from police after they were found near the scene of an alleged break-in. Police deny they were chasing the two teenagers.

"They ran because other young people were running - they thought they were being chased but they were not," Francois Molins, public prosecutor for the Seine-Saint-Denis district, says.

Tensions in Clichy-sous-Bois were high after France’s Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said the crime-ridden neighbourhoods should be "cleaned with a power hose" and described violent elements as "gangrene" and "rabble".

Several cities in France have launched emergency decrees and curfews in response to the riots. These emergency measures were recently approved in a special national cabinet meeting this week.

"The violent events that happened in our territory, and the people responsible... will be arrested and punished," Mr Sarkozy says.

Libyan Blogger Jailed

A blogger in Libya has received a year and half in prison after posting blog articles that criticise his government, according to his family.

A court in Tripoli convicted blogger Abd al-Raziq al-Mansuri, 52, on charges of illegal handgun possession earlier this month. However, al-Mansuri and his family say it's an attempt to silence dissent.

“We… will continue our son’s march, for he always wanted for everyone to eliminate fear,” al-Mansuri’s family says in a joint statement posted on his blog.

"We will begin, with our abilities, to write with freedom and leave the matter of the fraudulent charges of the Libyan state, knowing that we have been contacted, directly and indirectly, by the Libyan authorities, who are the reason for this problem.

"If defending the right to free speech and asking for basic human rights is insane in our country, then welcome to a family that is, from its oldest to its youngest, insane."

Visit al-Mansuri’s blog here.

Annan: UN not a threat to the Internet

The United Nations secretary general says the international organisation has no desire to "take over" or police the Internet.

UN secretary general Kofi Annan says the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society will not focus on ways of regulating the Internet.

Instead, the summit will look at ways to encourage information and communication technology in developing countries, Mr Annan says.

"The United Nations wants only to ensure the Internet's global reach, and that effort is at the heart of this summit," he says in a recent Washington Post op-ed article.

However, Mr Annan did mention some controls were necessary.

"Governance of matters related to the Internet, such as spam and cybercrime, is being dealt with in a dispersed and fragmented manner, while the Internet's infrastructure has been managed in an informal but effective collaboration among private businesses, civil society and the academic and technical communities," he says.

Controversial Internet bill defeated in US House of Reps

Democrats in the US House of Representatives last week defeated a bill to regulate certain aspects of political communication, such as campaign contributions and advertising via weblogs.

The defeated Online Freedom of Speech Act exempts the Internet from current laws that prohibit unregulated campaign donations and advertising.

"This bill is drafted far broader than it needs to be, with the result that it is going to allow members of Congress to use corrupt, unlimited soft money to pay for ads on the Internet to support their campaigns," says Fred Wertheimer, president of nonprofit organisation Democracy 21.

A recent editorial in the New York Times says the bill uses freedom of speech as a fig leaf, pasted on in the guise of defending political bloggers from government censorship.

“In fact, bloggers face no such threat under the existing campaign law,” the editorial says.

“Make no mistake: this is a bill to protect political bagmen, not bloggers.”

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