"Rights Group Fights a Foe With Frames" New York Times, February 16, 1999 By PAMELA MENDELS A Web site with the address www.amnesty-tunisia.org had been operating quietly for about nine months when officials at Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, discovered it by chance last spring. They did not like what they saw. The site, posted by a French-Lebanese businessman, praises what it characterizes as the advances made in human rights in recent years in Tunisia, a country that Amnesty International has accused of committing abuses like arbitrary arrest and torture of detainees. Amnesty International officials said they feared that visitors to the site would look at the Web address and conclude that Amnesty International had posted the feature and was heaping plaudits on Tunisia. This was especially disturbing to Amnesty officials, because, they say, Amnesty International's own official Web pages appear to have been blocked by Tunisian authorities from display in the North African nation. Recently, the group responded, not with the type of lawsuit that has typified many Internet domain name disputes in the United States, but with an unusual -- and pointed -- effort to set the record straight. In a site called "Rhetoric vs. Reality" at www.amnesty.org/tunisia, Amnesty International displays the pro-Tunisia site bordered by frames with a running rebuttal to the assertions made inside. When the non-Amnesty site includes a section saying that a number of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have members in Tunisia, for example, the text in the frame around it declares that Tunisian members of the group "are constantly harassed and intimidated; some have been detained." Olivier Jacoulet, press officer for Africa and the Middle East at Amnesty's London headquarters, said the frame commentary was meant to counteract what he viewed as propaganda. "We wanted to allow people to be able to compare the Tunisian version of reports of human rights in Tunisia with our own version," he said. "We believe people are intelligent enough to make up their own minds." The "amnesty-tunisia" site was put up by Raghid El Chammah, who said in a phone interview last week that he is French-Lebanese businessman and lobbyist with offices in Beirut and Paris. El Chammah said he published the site because he believes Tunisia has made progress in human rights in recent years and deserves recognition for this. He also insisted that the site is his private project, and not associated with authorities in Tunisia, where he travels and conducts business. El Chammah said that he chose the word "amnesty" to include in the URL because the word seemed an appropriate fit for a site discussing human rights, not because it is the name of a prominent organization that issues reports about human rights violations in countries around the world. "The word 'amnesty' itself is a word that exists in the dictionary and reflects activities in human rights and is in the public domain," he said. Jacoulet, on the other hand, described the URL as "quite ambiguous." In the United States, disputes over Web addresses often lead to court battles. And Web sites of competitors sometimes engage in duels, posting virtual arguments and responses to each other. But Carl Oppedahl, a Colorado-based lawyer who specializes in Internet issues, said he had never seen a critique-in-a-frame approach and found the idea an "aggressive and fascinating" response. The idea is not original to Amnesty International, however. Brian M. Healy, electronics publications officer for the organization, said he knew of at least one other frame-your-foe site. A site put up by outspoken British critics of the McDonald's hamburger chain in 1996 began offering what Wired magazine called at the time a "truly inspirational frames-based guided tour -- complete with translation -- of McDonald's official web site." This week the site, the "official McSpotlight sightseeing tour," responds with a "not found" site in within-the-frame portion. As for El Chammah, he says that word of the flap, which has been reported in French and British news media, has brought a flood of new visitors to his site, as well as insulting and threatening e-mail. He says that no one from Amnesty International contacted him personally to complain about the site, although Jacoulet said the organization's dismay over the site has received publicity since last year. An effort to reach officials at the Tunisian embassy in Washington, D.C., to confirm whether the official Amnesty International site is blocked by Tunisian authorities was unsuccessful. http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/02/cyber/articles/16amnesty.html Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company ---------------------------------- Send mail for the 'huridocs-tech' list to 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. Mail administrative request to 'email@example.com'. For additional assistance, send mail to: 'firstname.lastname@example.org'. Archives of previous messages posted to the list can be found at: http://www.human-rights.net/huridocs-tech.
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