freebasselday

Imprisoned internet pioneer Bassel Khartabil wins Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award

Elliot Harmon, March 21st, 2013

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Palestinian-born Syrian software engineer Bassel Khartabil is the winner of this year’s Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award, sponsored by Google. Khartabil is a free internet pioneer who has spent his career advancing open source technologies. On March 15, 2012, he was illegally imprisoned in Syria. His family were given no official information about why or where he was detained but have since learnt that he is being held at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus.

Index CEO Kirsty Hughes said, “Following courageous and peaceful protests in 2011, Syria descended into violence with appalling attacks on civilians across the country — and with over 60,000 people killed over the last two years. Up until his arrest last March, Bassel Khartabil bravely continued to work for a cause he passionately believes in — an open and free internet that is available to all. In a country torn apart by violence, he is a brave advocate for peaceful change.”

Bassel’s friend Dana Trometer, who is collecting the Index award on his behalf said, “Bassel deserves to be out of jail celebrating his real freedom and digital freedom. On this Mother’s day in most of the Arab World, and as a mother myself, my heart goes out to Bassel’s Mom. Bassel is a kind and gentle friend. A loving husband and son. He did not fear being targeted as he knew his love for Syria would save him from being persecuted by the authorities. Bassel is aware of this award and he would like to thank the judges and audience for trusting him with such an honour. He would also like to pay respect to all the victims of the struggle for freedom of speech, and, especially for those non-violent youths who refused to carry arms and deserve all the credit for this award.”

Another close friend of Bassel’s, Jon Phillips, stated, “Lock-up, Lock-out fails. Locking-up Bassel, only locks-out his personal freedom. By locking-up Bassel, his Syrian captors are accidentally locking-out themselves from the future. From launching Creative Commons Syria, building the Arabic Wikipedia and bringing internet leaders to Syria, he knew that his free participation in global web communities required concrete contributions locally. For these acts would make Syria a better place. One year later, Bassel is under harsh lock-down. Now, thousands of people that Bassel’s work helped, now help him by spreading the message #FREEBASSEL. This is what truly builds Syria and connects it to the global connected future. This award proves that his lock-up, is NOT a lock-out of his digital freedom.”

Bassel is known worldwide for his strong commitment to the open web, teaching others about technology, and contributing his experience freely to help the world. Bassel is the inventor of an open source software that powers the Open Clip Art Library. He is an original contributor to the Arabic Wikipedia and launched Creative Commons Syria. He is well known in online technical communities as a dedicated volunteer to major Internet projects like Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, and Fabricatorz.

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Bassel Khartabil Nominated for Digital Freedom Award

Elliot Harmon, March 19th, 2013

#freebasselday San Francisco
#FREEBASSELDAY San Francisco / Niki Korth / CC BY

If you read Creative Commons’ blog or follow our various social media channels, you’re no doubt already familiar with the story of Bassel Khartabil, the long-time Creative Commons volunteer who’s been detained in Syria for over a year. Last Friday, we participated in a global day of solidarity in honor of Bassel.

Bassel has been nominated for the Index on Censorship’s Digital Freedom Award. The award ceremony will take place this Thursday, March 21, in London.

From the Index’s nomination:

Software engineer Bassel Khartabil has been held in detention since his arrest in Damascus on 15 March 2012. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights believes his arrest is related to his work as a computer engineer, specialising in the development of open source software.

Khartabil, a Palestinian-born Syrian, spent his career advancing open source and related technologies to ensure a freer internet. Internationally, he is known for his voluntary work with open source projects such as Creative Commons and Mozilla Firefox. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named him in its list of the top 100 global thinkers.

As yet, authorities have failed to provide an official statement about his arrest, the charges he is facing or his whereabouts. Just weeks before he was jailed, Khartabil tweeted: “The people who are in real danger never leave their countries. They are in danger for a reason and for that they don’t leave.” Khartabil’s arrest was part of the Syrian government’s crackdown against the popular uprising, which has resulted in at least 60,000 deaths since March 2011.

For more information, visit freebassel.org.

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Free Bassel, Free Culture

Elliot Harmon, March 15th, 2013

#FREEBASSEL
#FREEBASSEL / Kennisland / CC BY-SA

Creative Commons CEO Catherine Casserly wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post for the one-year anniversary of Bassel Khartabil’s arrest.

Since March 15, 2012, our colleague and friend Bassel Khartabil has been in prison in Syria, held without charges and not allowed legal representation. Bassel is an open-source coder and leader of the Syrian Creative Commons program. He believes in the open Internet, and has spent the last ten years using open technologies to improve the lives of Syrians. Not only did Bassel build the CC program in his country; he worked tirelessly to build knowledge of digital literacy, educating people about online media and open-source tools.

Our work requires us to spend a lot of time looking at nuanced details — whether a certain piece of legislation supports open access to research, for example, or how to mark creative works for easier search and filtering. Bassel’s imprisonment has been a stark reminder that our work is part of a larger, global ecosystem. For Bassel and others around the world who fight for open, a free internet is not a theoretical matter. Real lives hang in the balance.

Today, there are demonstrations and getherings happening all over the world in honor of Bassel. Learn more at freebasselday.org.

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