Afrique Ameriques Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
United States / India 25 August 2008

“We do not want another Shi Tao case”
Letter to Google about Bombay court decision ordering Indian subsidiary to name anonymous blogger

Google India

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard has written to Google CEO Eric Schmidt and one of Google’s founders, Sergey Brin, about a defamation lawsuit that the Indian construction company Gremach brought against Google’s Indian subsidiary, Google India Private Ltd, in February.

As a result of the action, a Bombay high court ordered Google’s subsidiary on 15 August to reveal the identity of a blogger who used the pseudonym “Toxic Writer” to post comment’s criticising Gremach on Google’s blog platform,

Indian law governing the use of personal data makes no provision for the parties concerned to oppose disclosure. As far as the Indian authorities are concerned, Google India Private Ltd is subject to local law and must name the person who posted the disputed content.

“Under the Indian law concerning cyber-crime, IT Act 2000, a company is presumed responsible for the content posted on the websites it hosts unless it can demonstrate its innocence. Google has just two options - either prove that its local subsidiary was not aware of the offending content at the time it was posted, or that it was posted in violation of the warnings it had issued,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge Google’s executives not to comply with the local law and to appeal against the court’s decision.”

Ménard’s letter, dated 21 August, refers to the precedent of Chinese journalist Shi Tao and the US company Yahoo!, whose compliance with a Chinese government request in 2005 to identify one of its clients resulted in Shi being sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“You must be aware of the ensuing public relations disaster for Yahoo! and the apology that your counterpart and rival, Jerry Yang, had to give to the US Congress after it held him responsible for his client’s imprisonment,” the letter says. “Seize the opportunity you are being given to demonstrate transparency by defying the Indian court’s request in the name of the international standards that protect free expression.”

Ménard points out that the Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA) proposed by US representative Christopher Smith would protect US companies operating in foreign countries with authoritarian governments that could ask them to reveal their clients’ personal data. “The GOFA would require all such requests to be submitted to the US government, thereby extricating them from a delicate situation.”

Ménard adds: “We remind you that article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, says: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’.”

Read more about the lawsuit against Google in India

Read more about the Shi Tao / Yahoo! case

Read more about the GOFA

Read the letter :

PDF - 62.1 kb
E. Schmidt

In this country
25 March - India
Newspaper editor gunned down in Assam
18 December - India
Journalist Lenin Kumar Roy and two assistants freed on bail
27 November - India
Journalist investigating drug trafficking gunned down in Bihar state
24 November - India
Journalist gunned down in Assam, second to be killed on northeast in past week
19 November - India
Trainee journalist gunned down in Manipur, local media stage protests

in the annual report
India - Annual report 2008
India - Annual report 2007
India - Annual report 2006

4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election

Asia archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
3 June - China
“Tank Man” photo displayed outside Chinese embassy in Paris on eve of Tiananmen Square massacre
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
2 June - Sri Lanka
Press freedom activist badly beaten in Colombo, hospitalised