15 November 2005

This month happens to be the birthday of the electronic word. Only fifteen years ago, our communications world was totally different. The Internet changed it. The force of the World Wide Web was not in replacing the three main media outlets: press, radio and television; but in complementing them. Every medium was amplified, widened, strengthened. The world was interconnected beyond anyone's imagination. Individuals, however deprived of other luxuries, felt empowered by those three repetitive letters: WWW. People recounted experiences, exchanged hopes or merely let off steam. They felt FREE. It is that precious gift of freedom that the Internet bestowed on us. Under international cover, autocrats, aided by opportunist bureaucrats, are now seeking to take away that gift. An alliance of oppressive regimes who seek to muzzle public opinion and commercial enterprises wanting to exploit a most popular demand are joining forces. Regrettably, the U.N. paralysis is playing into their hands. A Summit in Tunis seems to disguise that effort under varied pretexts. The fact remains that freedom is more powerful than oppression. An individual's right to communicate, as indicated in Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights, can no more be muzzled by any autocrat or bureaucrat. Those assembled in Tunis can review as many technical issues that they like. That shameless self-promoter can make as many self-serving promises as he could fathom. In the end, however, the free word will prevail. Thanks, partly, to the Internet. Happy Birthday W.W.W.