New York, NY, October 23, 2007—PEN American Center today praised the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s unanimous vote in favor of the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007, and urged Congress to move swiftly to enact a bill it says is essential to ensure American internet service providers do not assist regimes that suppress free expression on the internet and persecute cyber-dissidents.

“Precisely because the internet holds such promise for fulfilling the right of all the world’s citizens to ‘seek, receive and impart information and ideas . . . regardless of frontiers,’ repressive governments are turning their energies to developing technologies that censor content and to hunting and punishing those who seek to use the internet to expand freedom of expression in their countries,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “All too often, they are pressing U.S.-based internet providers doing business in their countries to aid in the censorship and help identify cyber-dissidents. The Global Online Freedom Act would bar American companies from aiding and abetting these abusive regimes.”

The Global Online Freedom Act, H.R. 275, prohibits U.S. companies from disclosing the names and information of individuals utilizing their services to foreign governments. China is a primary offender, with more than 20 dissidents now in prison for writings they posted on the internet, and it has exerted considerable pressure on U.S. ISPs to cooperate in its censoring schemes. In one notable case, China demanded that Yahoo! turn over the personal information of cyber-dissident Shi Tao, whom they accused of “illegally divulging state secrets abroad” for publishing information on media control plans in advance of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Yahoo!’s disclosure of user information led to Shi Tao’s arrest and imprisonment for a ten-year term.

Yahoo!’s role in Shi Tao’s arrest and conviction is the subject of continuing Congressional scrutiny, with Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Jerry Yang and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michael Callahan due to appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee for another hearing on November 6.

PEN has been actively involved in Shi Tao’s case since his arrest came to light in 2004, and he is an honorary member of PEN American Center. PEN is particularly concerned about the crackdown on internet freedoms in China in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and has noted increased censorship of sites and blockages of blogs and chatrooms. It is monitoring the situation closely (see

PEN American Center is the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on Shi Tao and PEN’s work to free another 45 writers who are currently imprisoned in China, please visit:

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105