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WSIS Report From Geneva - Wednesday 8th Dec

indy travelling circus | 08.12.2003 21:09 | WSIS 2003 | Globalisation | Indymedia | Technology

Reports from Monday 8th December
wsis in geneva

The World Summit on Information Society and the (counter/parallel) activities happening around it are now beginning, with activists from all over the world starting to arrive to participate in both the alternative projects outside of the WSIS and the official programme.

Today the Geneva03 platform held a press conference at which the text of the press release was presented, illustrating the main points of its discontent with the official discussions: quote: "The official agenda of this UN/ITU Summit talks about free access to information, the digital divide and equality of opportunities, in reality its doors are closed, its discussions exclusive and the agendas of those who attend it concealed..."

Civil Society elements, participating in the official discussions, did not refrain from also publishing a press release on its views. Although less direct the main message was still critical of the official process and in particular it states that "At this step of the process, the first phase of the Summit, Geneva, December 2003, our voices and the general interest we collectively expressed is not adequately reflected in the Summit documents." Indeed some of the more progressive sections of civil society are organising their own fringe event, the World Forum on Communication Rights(program), to discuss their vision of the future of Information Society. There were also reports from yesterday's contention between the delegates that couldn't agree on the government declaration. The civil society plenary has decided to make their own declaration and are drafting a civil society plenary declaration that will support free and open software, against media monopoly etc."

Many human rights and communications rights activists from around the world are holding meetings sharing their experiences and planning campaigns. Just one of the new initiatives announced today included the plan to create a global index to monitor communication rights and repressive regimes around the world. Many are also preparing to present the Charter of Communication Rights, which today had an addition unanimously accepted which denounces info-war in terms of the targetting of journalists in conflicts and the attacking of civillian communications structures and media and so on.

Rumours that the workers of the ITU, who are hosting the whole WSIS, were to go on strike tomorrow have been denied. However the situation remains that 80-100 workers will lose their jobs at the end of December. While many have said privately that they are angry at their situation, and would like to take some form of action, they are in a difficult position. Their contracts forbid them from engaging in 'political activity' and they are represented by a company union, which means any organising meeting they hold has ITU management representitives

The spaces and infrastructure that are going to host the alternative conferences, workshops and projects are in their final stages of preparation. The co-ordination meetings of S-CONF which starts tomorrow and continues on Wednesday, looking at the strategic alternatives on the fundamental issues facing information society, have been concluded and its shedule is now complete (NB. it will be streamed live and archived). A conference about migration, labor, media and organizing and their relation to information society is also scheduled for the 9th.

Meanwhile the the WSIS infrastructure is also taking shape at the Palexpo centre right next to Geneva airport. In the massive halls the facilities for exhibitions and the main summit are being prepared. Bizarely the security checkpoint hall was still this morning being cleared of mountains of straw and what smelled mostly like cow shit. In the adjoining hall the ICT4D exhibition (Information and Communication Technology for Development) and forum was taking shape with some strange bedfellows - The Ministry of Information Industry PR of China rubbing shoulders with APC South Africa. One interesting installation being set up was the African Village which contains a streaming radio studio - a joint collaboration with AMARC and Radio Lora which will be broadcasting each day in several languages (including english language 8am-9am GMT) - listen here.

The registration process to the ICT4D exhibition has been a real mess all day. Participants that had registered were consistently not found in their databases, with passes being issued apparently just on trust. Combined with the clear lack of training of those in charge of operating the systems it was a wonderful opportunity to get a badge in exchange with very poor personal data. The security to the ICT4D space was also lax enough to allow non accredited people to roam freely, despite a number of soldiers setting up the barbed wire outside throughout the day. Indeed the area around the Palexpo centre is now being fenced off and screened off to provide a sterile area for the governments, corporations and corporate media representitives who are now arriving, including tomorrow the World Bank Group.

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