Hypermedia Research on Mon, 4 May 1998 03:31:07 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Solidarity from Richard Barbrook and the HRC


The Hypermedia Research Centre of the University of Westminster (London,
England) wishes to express its support for the defendants in the 'Lasciate
che i bimbi' trial. We particularly would like to protest against the
attempt to censor Internet Service Providers for distributing this text. It
is not only technically impossible to stop the publication of 'Lasciate che
i bimbi' in a global system such as the Net. More importantly, this case is
an attack against the founding principles of republican democracy.

Since the 1789 French revolution, all democratic constitutions and
declarations of rights have promised the formal right of media freedom to
all citizens. Yet, they are never been able to exercise this right in
practice. Instead, only those with large amounts of money and/or licences
from government agencies have been allowed to communicate their ideas to
the general public. However, at the end of the millenium, the Net now
offers the opportunity to turn the formal promises in our constitutions and
declarations of rights into reality for the first time. No longer will
unpopular and heterodox opinions only be available through fanzines and
other limited forms of publication. As access to this new communications
system spreads, everyone will be able to publish and receive information on
a global level.

Much of what will be disseminated will be frivolous, rude, childish and in
bad taste. Some of it will mock institutions and ideas which most members
of society believe in. However, political and legal authorities need to
resist the temptation to censor such activities because important
personalities are abused and mocked. Neither public or civil law should be
used to prevent the expression of political opinions except in the most
exceptional circumstances. In a democracy, citizens can only hold the rich
and powerful to account if they can publish their own opinions and receive
information from others. It appears that the prosecutors in the 'Lasciate
che i bimbi' case are opposed to this basic principle of media freedom -
and hence to republican democracy as well.

What makes this case particularly absurd to people outside Italy is the
attempt to prevent the dissemination of the text across the Net. Far from
restricting access to 'Lasciate che i bimbi', the court action is
encouraging people across the world to put copies of the original Italian
version and translations into various languages on their sites. In defence
of our right of media freedom, Net users will aid those whose democratic
rights are threatened in other countries. The HRC would be willing to
publish 'Lasciate che i bimbi' on its site - although the text has been
mirrored so many times as to make such a gesture redundant. Whatever the
outcome of the case, the Italian courts cannot prevent people in Italy or
elsewhere in getting hold of the article from the Net. More importantly,
they should not do so.

We send our best wishes to the 'Lasciate che i bimbi' defendants.
Ironically, despite their self-proclaimed anti-statism, these people are
defending the democratic republican right of media freedom for people in
Italy, in the other countries of the European Union and across cyberspace.

Yours in solidarity,

Dr. Richard Barbrook
Hypermedia Research Centre

Media Freedom article: <ma.hrc.wmin.ac.uk/ma.theory.4.1.db>

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