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C&W boss urged to help free jailed Net users in Maldives

'All-out hell for cyber-dissidents'

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The chief exec of Cable & Wireless (C&W), Francesco Caio, has been asked personally to lobby authorities in the Maldives to help free jailed Internet users.

In an open letter, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the French-based press freedom organisation, called on Caio to "put pressure on the Maldives authorities to end abusive Internet censorship and to press for the release of imprisoned Internet-users".

C&W holds 45 per cent of the stock in Dhiraagu, the company that runs the phone network in the Maldives. RSF says that while the Maldives are an island paradise for tourists they are an "all-out hell for cyber-dissidents".

It describes the situation in the Maldives as "very serious" ,claiming the Government only pays lip service to freedom of speech laws and cracks down brutally on dissent.

RSF maintains that the Maldives is one of the world's most repressive countries in the world for freedom of expression on the Internet. Four Internet users are currently in jail there for having posted articles critical of the government and RSF wants C&W to use its muscle to try and end the hard-line attitude in the country.

RSF said in statement: "Cable & Wireless has said it is very concerned about human rights issues. We therefore hope that its top executive will appreciate the ethical consequences of running the network in a country like the Maldives."

A spokesman for C&W said he was aware of the open letter but insisted that it wasn't for foreign investors, such as C&W, to intervene in government affairs.

He told us: "As a partner with Governments in many of the countries in which we operate, C&W's position is that the form of governance is a matter for the citizens of that country concerned and not a matter for a foreign investor to intervene." ®

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