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e-Democracy update - 22/3/06

22 March, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

Can Australia's broadband cope with e-democracy advances?

Australian broadband speeds are trailing behind other countries despite advances in political video webcasting worldwide.

The World Bank has released a report that shows Australia’s broadband speeds lag behind other developed nations.

Australia reaches just over an average of 1Mbps per person, according to the report

This figure is down significantly in comparison to Britain (13 Mbps), France (8.4 Mbps), Germany (6.85 Mbps) Canada (6.8 Mbps) and the United States (3.3 Mbps).

These figures come at a time when people in other developed nations are using online communication technology to broadcast political videos.

Such examples include US political websites, such as The Young Turks and PoliticsTV, which now broadcast political news and chat shows similar to TV stations.

In January, US politician John Tobin said most people would not tolerate political candidates who did not utilise online video technology in the future.

Mr Tobin delivers regular video broadcasts on his own website.

Despite the lagging speeds in Australia, Telstra recently announced a $500 million overhaul on its communication network, including new video, voice and data services for broadband.

With higher connection speeds, we could expect more online political advertisements like this one from Australian online campaign organisation GetUp!.

Belarus presidential protest hits the web

Critics of the recent presidential election in Belarus are spreading word of their protests through the Internet.

Opposition to the election claim President Alexander Lukashenko won through a rigged election.

Very few avenues exist for independent commentary in Belarus as most radio and television stations are state run. As a result, many have turned to the Internet to organise protest rallies and report independently on the election.

One website, Charter 97, provides reports on the protest rallies.

Last Monday, the site reported at least 20,000 people protesting at Belarus' Parliament Square.

Vietnamese police arrest man for online democracy discussion

Vietnamese Police have arrested a man at a cybercafe while he was chatting on a democracy discussion forum.

During the arrest, the man taped the event with an audio recorder. The audio file is available at the website of free speech organisation Reporters Without Borders.

A spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders says no one currently knows the identity of the person arrested, which makes it impossible to find out if he is still being detained.

"This episode very well illustrates the risks run by Vietnamese democrats to get themselves heard. It also provides an insight into the kind of battle going on between the police and these young people who know their way around the Internet," the spokesperson says.

The spokesperson also said Vietnamese police had arrested three others for joining discussions on the same forum five months ago.

Blogger and filmmaker arrested in Beijing

Beijing authorities are detaining a well-known filmmaker and blogger without pressing any charges.

Sources indicate that authorities arrested blogger and filmmaker Hao Wu in February after he met with an independent church organisation for his next film.

His blog Beijing or Bust has not received any updates since February 22, 2006.

Hao was also a contributor to blog aggregation website Global Voices.

Global Voices founders Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon have set up a website on Hao Wu's detention.

"The reason for Hao's detention is unknown. One of the possibilities is that the authorities who detained Hao want to use him and his video footage to prosecute members of China’s underground churches," Ms MacKinnon says.

"Hao is an extremely principled individual, who his friends and family believe will resist such a plan."

Syria: Online dissent stays ahead of government

Syrians are staying a step ahead of their government when using the Internet to voice dissent, according to a report in The Australian.

Read the full article here.

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