The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has written to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to protest Microsoft Corporation's censoring of Chinese bloggers.
The giant corporation shut down the blog of a Chinese journalist because it dealt with issues that are politically sensitive in China. The blog, An Ti, is written by journalist Zhao Jing who works for the Beijing bureau of The New York Times as a research assistant. His blog addressed issues including his country’s relations with Taiwan and the recent landmark strike action by 100 journalists of the Beijing News who were protesting at the dismissal of the senior editors of that newspaper.
Microsoft's blog service in China bars the use of words such as "democracy" and "human rights".
Brooke Richardson, the group product manager of Microsoft's MSN online division, said the blog was shut down because: "when we operate in markets around the world, we have to ensure that our service complies with global laws as well as local laws and norms.”
However, it is clear that Microsoft’s action is a gross violation of Zhao Jing’s human rights, particularly his right to freedom of expression as protected by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration gives human rights precedence over the power of the state. While states are permitted to regulate rights, they are prohibited from violating them.
IFJ president Christopher Warren said: "We have already seen another global corporation, Yahoo Inc., supplying personal information about one of its clients to the Chinese Government which led to the conviction a Chinese reporter on questionable charges of revealing state secrets," Warren said.
"The IFJ believes corporations, while obeying local laws, must also take a stand on behalf of the individual. Microsoft should protect and defend Zhao Jing’s right to freedom of expression. To censor his use of Microsoft's products is to undermine the very reason Microsoft created the products."
"Corporations should not use their power to participate in the silencing of voices and thus become participants in acts of suppression," Warren said. "Journalists have a duty to inform society.
Society is the key beneficiary of the transparency that a free media encourages. The IFJ expects Microsoft will play its part as a responsible global citizen, exercise its moral conscience, and uphold and defend the rights of the individual."
The IFJ encourages its affiliates to complain about Microsoft's action by writing to the company: [email protected]
For more information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in 110 countries worldwide