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Why undemocratic Brunei is the perfect host for secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership talks

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The latest round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks are taking place in the autocratic one-party state of Brunei from August 22 – 30. The TPP is a secretive and extreme agreement being negotiated behind closed doors by twelve countries across the trans-Pacific region: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

As with previous negotiating rounds, citizens and public interest groups are completely locked out of the talks, which are taking place in near-total secrecy between unaccountable industry lobbyists and unelected bureaucrats. Despite the secrecy, we know from leaked documents that the TPP’s Intellectual Property chapter contains extreme Internet Censorship proposals which could break our digital future and end the open Internet as we know it.

Given the near-total exclusion of citizens and their elected representatives, it seems entirely fitting that this next round of negotiations are taking place in Brunei. Brunei is an absolute monarchy, which U.S.-based NGO Freedom House clearly describes as ‘Not Free’ and “not an electoral democracy”.

For 46 years, Brunei has been ruled by an absolute ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is considered infallible under the constitution of Brunei. His government is well known for restricting freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression (including religious expression). In 2001, Brunei even introduced a law which allows officials to fine journalists and shut down newspapers whose publications are considered critical of the Sultan.

According to the U.S. State Department, Brunei’s government even monitors private email and Internet chat room exchanges between its citizens. Access to the Internet is generally restricted based on whether content is deemed appropriate for social norms. Tightly-controlled Bruneian media regularly tout censorship as a much-needed tool to ensure the country’s political and social stability.

Clearly, TPP negotiators could not have picked a more fitting location to hold their secretive, closed-door meetings about extreme new rules that would censor our freedom of expression, invade our privacy, and criminalize much of our everyday online activity.

So far, those leading the TPP have refused to open up the process to citizen voices despite the efforts of thousands of people around the world, including your team at OpenMedia International and the Our Fair Deal Coalition. The truth is, if citizens knew about the extreme Internet censorship rules proposed by the TPP they would be outraged. That’s why negotiators are going to such extreme lengths to shut out citizen voices.

Here at OpenMedia we know from experience that there’s nothing stronger than citizens standing up and speaking out together – it really does convince decision-makers to sit up and take notice. Here’s how you can pitch in to help spread the word:

  • Add your name to the thousands already speaking out in support of the Our Fair Deal Coalition.

Help create our own citizen-driven vision for a fair digital future – share your vision today at: http://OpenMedia.org/DigitalFuture. We’ll take your input and use it to build a citizen-driven plan of our own that decision-makers can’t ignore.


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