- East Africa
- Human rights - Technology
Sudanese to access web freely despite sanctions
The United States has moved to ensure that Sudanese can exercise their universal right to free speech and information to the greatest extent possible. Sudanese, Iranians and Cubans will be allowed the use of web services like social networks and other media means to express their civic rights to gate-keep, despite existing sanctions on this countries.
Sudanese would be empowered with the civic duty to gate-keep as a result of the rising tensions in the run-up to the 2011 independence referendum in southern Sudan, reports have claimed.
Until now, corporations providing such media interactivity services have not operated in Sudan, Iran or Cuba for fear of undermining sanctions.
However, with the incentive to encourage democracy and human rights the exports would now be allowed the use of services related to web browsing, blogging, e-mail, instant messaging, chat, social networking and photo- and movie-sharing, the U.S Treasury has said.
"As recent events in Iran have shown, personal internet-based communications like e-mail, instant messaging and social networking are powerful tools," Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin was quoted as saying.
Experts say that the technology will likely be bought by small technology businesses - if they are able to access it - and some of it could help circumvent government restrictions on the use of programs like Twitter and even internet-based e-mail accounts.
Despite this recent initiative, it remains uncertain whether the governments of Sudan, Cuba and Iran would be able impose their own restrictions on these services.
U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February, said that countries restricting this freedom were violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Clinton announced that the US would be supporting the development of new tools to enable citizens to circumvent politically-motivated censorship.
In 2009, software giant Microsoft had barred users in five countries, including Iran, Cuba and Sudan, from using instant messaging services. People trying to use the service received an error message.
According to analysts, internet freedom is fast becoming a principle of US foreign policy, even in countries like Sudan whose president Mr. Omar al-Bashir faces war crimes charges over Darfur, and heads a unity government formed after a peace deal ended 20 years of southern civil war.
Sudan suffered a two-decade civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the Animist and Christian south, and civil war in the Darfur region- considered as one of the worst nightmares in recent history; and escalating tribal clashes in south.