Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | 4:16 PM
For many years, Amnesty International and its 3.2 million members have stood up for human rights by organizing Write for Rights - an annual global letter-writing marathon. People from over 80 countries come together to support individuals and communities suffering human rights abuses. Today, with our support, Amnesty will mark the International Human Rights Day by building a new digital platform for this year’s Write for Rights Marathon.
Amnesty’s marathon website will focus on three cases: that of a community leader imprisoned because he tried to stop clashes between religious groups, that of a community that is living in makeshift shelters after their houses were demolished and that of a man brutally attacked by the police. The new website will link to YouTube to show videos of individuals and communities suffering human rights abuses.
This launch represents what we hope is just a beginning. Over the coming months, we will support Amnesty to build a platform that will help Amnesty to respond in a rapid and reactive way to human rights violations.
Amnesty has a unique way of humanising the often abstract issues around free expression. This new website represents not just a modernisation of its letter writing techniques; it also demonstrates an acknowledgement that the future of free expression depends much on the future of the open and free Internet, which anyone with a connection, anywhere in the world, can use to reach a global audience.
For the individual cases featured in Amnesty’s appeal, the impact of letter writing is often life changing, restoring their freedom. As Julio de Peña Valdez, a released prisoner of conscience from the Dominican Republic said after his release, “The letters kept coming and coming: three thousand of them. The president was informed. The letters still kept arriving, and the president called the prison and told them to let me go. After I was released, the president called me to his office. He said: 'How is it that a trade union leader like you has so many friends from all over the world?' He showed me an enormous box full of letters he had received and, when we parted, he gave them to me.”
We have always believed in the liberating power of technology: more information means more discussion, better choices and eventually more freedom. Our goal with Amnesty is to raise awareness of the critical human rights issues around the world, including free expression, creating international pressure for their resolution.