Gene Kimmelman will join GPA as an associate to develop its work on the internet and freedom of expression. Having worked in the Justice Department since August 2009 on antitrust issues, he is highly regarded and exceptionally well-connected in Washington. A recent Washington Post article describes him as one of the department‚Äôs most influential antitrust policy makers. Previously at the Consumers‚Äô Union in the US he joins GPA on July 22nd. Read the Washington Post article (09/07/2012)¬†here¬†and the¬†Seattle Times Editorial article ¬†(22/07/2012) here
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Over dinner in a hot and humid Seoul I sat next to the South Korean Minister for North Korea ‚Äď the man responsible for North Korean refugees living in the south. Born in Pyongyang, where his family still live, he has had had no contact with them in sixty years. And the deep wound caused by partition came up in every conversation with South Koreans, haunted by loss, separation and sadness at the fate of those in the North. Seoul was the venue for the 12th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights, focusing on ‚ÄúHuman Rights and Information and Communication Technology‚ÄĚ, organised by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Institute, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and a Singapore based think tank, the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF). It was a curiously lopsided event. Discussions covered some of the key issues for freedom of expression, privacy and the digital divide. But whereas the European participants included independent and critical voices, the Asian delegations were mainly government representatives, (although with some notable exceptions). So, a working group on online freedom of expression had to listen solemnly to the delegate from Vietnam‚Äôs human rights ministry stating his country had no internet censorship, except when dealing with serious crimes like murder or rape. The politeness and respect characteristic of the region meant most participants did not know how to respond. Despite these cultural differences, most recognised the implications of a fast-changing digital environment for all governments ‚Äď even those resisting democracy and human rights. Those in power face a population increasingly empowered by technology, free to exchange information and challenge traditional structures and hierarchies. As the fight to keep the internet free unrolls on multiple fronts ‚Äď technical, market, legal and normative - the outcome remains in the balance. But one way or another, governments need to work out what it means and, critically, how to respond.