Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

April 1998

Table of Contents:

I. Introduction
II. Planning a Search/ CD Roms
III.Internet Access Abroad
IV. Censorship
V. The Laws of Internet Reporting
VI. The "Best of" List of Internet Addresses
VII. Glossary of Terms

Produced as a project for Elements of International Reporting

Editor: Kathleen Lee

Research Team:
Kathryn Culley
Hien Thu Dao
Patricia Moccia
Shai Oster
Susana Urra-Calzada

Faculty Advisor: Anne Nelson


Copyright May 1998

by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism


I. Introduction:

The purpose of this booklet is to assist working journalists, freelance writers and stringers by providing them with quick and easy access to a variety of Internet sources for human rights and humanitarian issues. The information compiled here will be incorporated, as a chapter, into the "Journalist’s Handbook for Reporting Human Rights and Humanitarian Stories," published in association with Human Rights Internet and The International Center for Humanitarian Reporting.

The guide will not provide basic information on how to access the Internet because it is assumed that the reader already has this working knowledge. There are numerous books on the market which broach this topic at great length. Instead, this booklet will serve as a reference guide or a library of sites for human rights reporting and the legal issues involved in Internet reporting, such as censoring material reported over the Internet and as a compendium of Internet terms for the not-so-Internet-savvy reporters.

This chapter was produced as a special project by the students in the elective, "Elements of International Reporting," in the spring of 1998. The booklet reflects research conducted by our entire team, and can be updated and expanded as more information becomes available. The complete examination of using the Internet as a resource for human rights reporting will be available in the next edition of the "Journalists Handbook."

Anyone who would like to offer comments, corrections, or updates on the material may send them to Anne Nelson, under whose steady guidance the project was initiated and accomplished. She may be contacted at the following address:

Anne Nelson
International Coordinator
Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
2950 Broadway New York, NY 10027
tel: 212-854-5141
fax: 212-854-7837
e-mail: nelblack@aol.com



II. Planning a Search/CD ROMs:

Some international organizations and advocacy groups put out CD-ROMs of use to journalists researching human rights. They can be bought, and some may be found in libraries.

1. Finding out if a library has a CD-ROM on human rights

An excellent Internet resource is LibWeb, a list with links to libraries in over 70 countries. You can access LibWeb through any of these libraries' web pages, for instance:


Once inside a specific library's web page, conduct a keyword search by typing in the following:

human rights and d.fmt.

( by typing in d.fmt., you will retrieve computer files, which include CD-ROMs)

Many of the largest libraries have a couple of human rights CD-ROMs, usually those published by the United Nations, which are typically the most expensive. (Eg. Columbia University in New York City)

2. Buying a CD-ROM on human rights

The following organizations put out CD-ROMs with information on human rights and/or useful country background statistics. Computer specifications are given where available.

a) United Nations

Title: Human Rights on CD-ROM: Bibliographical database for United Nations Documents and Publications (2nd edition)
Description: Contains over 14,000 bibliographic references to U.N. documents and publications for the period 1980-1994. It also includes the full text of 95 international instruments. The pre-selection menu lists the major subject categories which can be further divided into sub-categories. Searches can be conducted in English, French and Spanish using the on-line Trilingual Subject Thesaurus.
Price: US$190.00
Specifications: XT PC or compatible; DOS 3.2 or higher; 430K memory and HD with 1MB free space; optional graphic display with ATPC or higher and 400K extended memory.

Title: Statistical Yearbook on CD-ROM, 39th edition, 1992
Description: Offers the full data of the 39th edition of the U.N. Statistical Yearbook, which comprises 1 million entries. For all countries and areas of the world, it presents an overall comprehensive description of the world economy, its structure, major trends and recent performance. It offers over 140 tables in image form as well as database format; the ability to search and rearrange the data; the possibility to download data for further analysis and user-friendly software.
Price:US$199.00 (also available with book for $249.00)
Specifications: Hardware:386 PC or higher; 4 MB RAM; 5MB available on HD; 512K free memory; VGA monitor; ISO 9660 compatible CD-ROM drive. Software: DOS 3.3 or higher.

Title: Statistical Yearbook on CD-ROM, 40th edition, 1993-94
Description: Same as above.
Price:US$199.00 (also available with book for $259.00)
Specifications: Same as above

Title: System of National Accounts on CD-ROM, 1993
Description: Complete electronic version of the book publication of the same name, with added electronic functions. Statistics on employment, balance of payments, government and other financial statistics. Any portion of the text or tables can be printed and exported for the user's own text processing and spreadsheet programs.
Price: US$120.00


Title: WISTAT: Women's Indicators and Statistics Database Version 3, 1995
Description: International gender statistics for over 200 countries and regions, covering population, education, households, fertility, health, economic, social, cultural and political activities.
Price: US$149.00
Specifications: PC 386DX with 1MB or more free XMS memory; 5MB free HDD VGA or SVGA display; HP laser jet, HP deskjet or Epson compatible printer and CD-ROM reader (ISO 9660).

Title: Refworld on CD-ROM
Description: Put out twice a year by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' documentation center, it includes country reports, legal and policy-related documents, and literature references, totalling over 12,000 references altogether. Basic research tool for refugee law and information relating to refugees. In English. Most of this information can be found on the UNHCR website, although it is more difficult to handle than the CD-ROM.
Price: US$250.00 for annual subscription
Specifications: 486PC; 8M RAM; 2M HD; DOS 3.1; Windows 3/1; VGA monitor.

Order forms can be downloaded at:


Further information can be obtained at the following addresses:

For North America, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands

United Nations Publications
Sales Section, 2 United Nations Plaza
Room DC2-853, Dept. I001
New York, NY 10017 USA
Tel. (212) 963-8302 and 1-800-253-9646
Fax. (212) 963-3489
E-mail. publications@un.org

For Europe, Africa, Middle East

United Nations Publications
Sales Office and Bookshop
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel. 41 (22) 917-2613 and 41 (22) 917-2614
Fax. 41 (22) 917-0027

b) International Committee of the Red Cross

Title: CD-ROM on International Humanitarian Law
Description: This CD-ROM contains 89 treaties and other documents, including the law on the protection of victims of war dating from 1856 to the present; commentaries on the Geneva Convention of 1929, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their 1977 Additional Protocols; an updated list of the countries which have signed, ratified, acceded or succeded to these treaties, as well as the full text of reservations, declarations and objections to the same. In French and English.
Price: US$39.00
Specifications: IBM PC or compatible, 486/66 or higher microprocessor, 8MB RAM; Windows 3.1 or Windows 95, CD-ROM double-speed drive.

Title: Random Ambush
Description: Information on the problems arising from the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel landmines, including different types of landmines, the business of selling mines, the injuries caused by them, treatment and rehabilitation of their victims, the social and economic costs of their use, techniques of mine clearance, gaps in international law governing the use of landmines, and the worldwide campaign to ban them. In English and Spanish.
Price: US$20.00
Specifications: Macintosh: System 7.0 or better; 68030/33 Mhz or Power PC; 8MB RAM, 4.7MB free; double-speed CD-ROM drive. IBM and compatible: Windows 3.1 or Windows 95; 66Mhz; 8MB RAM, 5MB free; double-speed CD-ROM drive; soundblaster compatible card; loudspeakers.


For further information on the French version contact:

International Committee of the Red Cross
Public Information Division
19, Avenue de la Paix
CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland
Fax. 41 22 733-2057
E-mail. webmaster.gva@icrc.org

For the Spanish version, contact:

Cruz Roja Española
c/Rafael Villa, s/n (Vuelta Ginés Navarro)
28023 El Plantío, Madrid, Spain
E-mail: informa@cruzroja.es

  1. Amnesty International

Title: Amnesty Interactive: a History and Atlas of Human Rights, 1994
Description: History of human rights from ancient times to the 20th century; atlas of human rights conditions throughout the world; animations on human rights themes; stories from AI case files; reference documents in electronic form.Includes work by Peter Gabriel, Annie Leibowitz, Mickey Hart and others.
Price: US$10.00
Specifications: Macintosh: 25MHz 68030 or better; 2500K free RAM, CD-ROM drive; System 7. Windows: 486SX-25 processor; 8MB RAM; MPC2-Compatible CD-ROM drive; soundcard; speakers.

For more information contact:

The Voyager Company (publisher)
Tel. 1-800-446-2001

d) Peace Research Institute

Title: Peace Research Abstracts
Description: More than 185,000 abstracts of magazine and journal articles, monographs and papers from 1964 to 1992 on the topics of disarmament, war, peace research, the U.N., etc. Access on author, title, subject and keyword.
Price: $375.00
Specifications: PC MS-DOS 5.0 or better, networkable through research software.

e) U.S. State Department

Title: U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM
Description: Country reports on human rights practices prepared annually by the State Department since 1977. Includes a table showing U.S. economic and military assistance to each country.

III. Internet Access Abroad:

Getting plugged in to the Internet abroad is possible in almost every country in the globe. Almost every country in the world has a server, and most servers connect to the World Wide Web. The problems with Internet access outside the United States and Canada are twofold: bad phone lines and high rates. Many less developed countries cannot support the kind of high-speed transmission necessary to surf the web -- at 9600 baud, only e-mail is feasible. Yet even where the phone lines are excellent, Japan for example can handle 128,000 baud, users must often pay expensive surcharges.

*Here are some tips on getting connected.

1. Getting a Local Account:

Find out if the country has any local servers. The List, (http://thelist.internet.com) is a comprehensive directory of more than 4,000 Internet service providers around the world. They are listed by country code and area code as well as name. The page lists the names of any providers, their Website, phone number, fees, modem speed and support services.

This alternative may be cheaper, depending on the country and services offered. This is certainly the route to go if you plan on spending any length of time in a foreign country. You don’t have to pay long distance phone charges. America On-Line has subsidiaries in several countries.

2. Using Your Foreign Account:

For shorter stays, it can make sense not to switch Internet providers.

Telnet: The cheapest way to use your existing account in a foreign country is through telnet. Telnet allows you to call a computer system through the Internet, instead of on the phone lines. To do this, you need access to a local account. Usually, the best way to get access to an account is through a local college or university. Login, and type "telnet" followed by the address of where you want to go. For examples, to access Columbia University, the address is "cunix.columbia.edu."


3. What Equipment to Use:

Vendors: Toshiba, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and ACER have vendors and dealer in almost every country. Repairs are easier on PC-compatible machines.

One way to save time on line is get an e-mail reader program such as Eudora or Pegasus, which allows you to download all your e-mail at once. Then you go off-line, read the mail, compose answers and go back on line to send messages.



Phone: You can also just dial-up your Internet server directly. Larger Internet providers, like America On-Line, Microsoft Network, and Compuserve, have servers in many foreign countries. Find out where your provider has a local server. That way, when you dail-up, you may only have to make a local call.

    • AOL has servers in 105 countries. They have a special help line for international users (1-703-264-1184). They are open 24-hours a day and promise no waiting on hold . However, international users pay an additional hourly surcharge that can range from $6 to $12, or even $24 depending on the location. However, AOL has subsidiaries in Germany, Sweden, Swizterland, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Austria, Canada and soon Australia. Joining a local subsidiary would save you the surcharge. For general information, call 1-800-827-6364.
    • COMPUSERVE has servers in 185 countries and have support services in some countries. However, you can expect to pay a surcharge. For general information, call 1-800-848-8990.
    • MICROSOFT NETWORK has a much more limited range. They have servers in Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan and Canada. You can open a local account with MSN in each of these countries. For general information call, 1-800-386-5550.


IV. Censorship:

More than 160 countries have links to the Internet and at least 20 countries restrict on-line communications in some way, according to a May 1996 Report from Human Rights Watch (htpp://www.hrw.org).

1. The Internet and Protection of Free Speech:

a) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) - Article 19 "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

b) Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) - Article 10.1 "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers....."

c) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) - Article 19.2 "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice."

2. Forms of Internet Censorship:

a) Content might be controlled in a variety of ways including: requiring prior approval of all communications on the Internet; restricting certain content from the Internet; prohibiting individuals from forming on-line discussion group; technically blocking, filtering and labeling certain content.

b) Access is often constricted by telephone monopolies, regulation and cost of service providers and high taxes on computer products.

c) Privacy of personal information generated on the Internet must be allowed to be encrypted if freedom of speech is to be protected.

3. Regulating Authorities - by Region

( from HRW Report "Silencing the Net"}

Censorship is exercised in some countries by the government controlling the one phone company or the one service provider. Examples: China, Vietnam, Bahrain,


-Botswana - all telecommunications are state owned

- Zambia - State Security Act


- China - Ministry of Public Security

- Hong Kong - Recreation and Cultural Branch

- Indonesia - none

- Malaysia- Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic Systems

- Pakistan - National Institute of Electronics

- Singapore - Singapore Broadcasting Authority, Ministry of Information a and Arts

- South Korea - Data and Communications Ministry

- Thailand - National Electronics and Computer Technology Center

- Vietnam - Vietnam Data Communications Company (VDC)

Australia and New Zealand

- Australia - Department of Communications and The Arts, Australian Broadcasting Authority

- New Zealand - New Zealand Technology and Crimes Reform Bill

Europe and Latin America

- not a major issue

Middle East

- Iran - relatively unregulated

- Kuwait - Communications Ministry

- Morocco - Office National des Postes et Telecommunications

- Saudi Arabia - Ministry of the Interior

North America

- United States - Communications Decency Act 1966

- Canada- Information Highway Advisory Council (IHAC)


4. Organizations and Links:

- Electronic Frontier Foundation - http://www. eff.org

- Global Internet Library Campaign - http://www.gilc.org

- Index on Censorship - http://www.oneworld.org

- International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearinghouse - http://www.ifex.org

- Privacy International - http://www.privacy.org


V. The Laws of Internet Reporting:

Similar to the provisions of International Humanitarian Law, which was designed to protect the basic human rights of people during armed conflict, laws governing the Internet are also complicated in nature. Several fundamental principles have been put forth by the Telecommunications Policy Roundtable in Washington, D.C. to guide the public interest in communications and information technology.

Issues such as universal access to the world information infrastructure, competition among information providers and protection of privacy over the Internet typify the issues facing the communications industry today. Journalists should be familiar with the basic legal issues concerning the Internet and their applicability to specific circumstances. Numerous sites are available for writers to learn about the origins of the debate surrounding Internet legislation and the rules which bind journalists.

Legal Sites:


Center for Democracy and Technology; cites public policies that advance civil liberties and democratic values in Internet era; provides recent news and Congressional hearings


Citation Proposal: How to cite to Electronic Journals; provides exact instructions and background


Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility outlines its visions for the National Information Infrastructure and the rights of Internet users


Cyber-rights: Rights to online assembly and access


Educational service focusing on legal issues concerning computer technology


Electronic Frontier Foundatio

n - protects privacy, free expression and democracy on-line;

Lists recent news and cases involving freedom of the Internet issues and int’l coalitions and campaigns fighting for free speech


Institute for Global Communications gopher: Human Rights Watch on freedom of expression


Lawyers Committee for Human Rights


Law-on-the-Internet book list produced by the American Bar Association


Law-On-Line for Asia and the Pacific rim


Electronic Resource List for Law and Human Rights in the NIS region


NIS Law and Human Rights organizations listed by country


Univ. Of Minnesota human rights library: excellent links to international and legal sites


Research guide/search engine for legal issues and legal directories


Meta-Index for U.S. legal research: lists U.S. judicial opinions, legislation, federal regulations, legal resources and people in the law search tools


Summary of the U.S. laws in force since 16 January 1996; has comprehensive search engine for titles and sections of specific legislation


An electronic legal library, a world locator of international AG’s, and links to U.S. government agencies, courts and departments


Willamette University’s J.W. Long Law Library, Foreign and international Law Site;

extensive links to int’l organizations and human rights issues and Internet search engines


World Intellectual Property Organization (Geneva): links to UN sites, Industrial Property Office and Arbitration and Mediation Center



VI. The "Best Of" List of Internet Addresses:

This is a list of selected Web sites of international and regional

organizations that provide documentation and information on the practice of

human rights in different countries around the world:

African Human Rights Resource Center

American Association for the Advancement of Science and Human Rights Program

American Human Rights Reporting as a Global Watchdog
Amnesty International News Releases

Amnesty International Online

Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN) Project

CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women)

Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

Committee of Concerned Scientists
Committee to Protect Journalists

European Consultation on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE)

Hands off Cain

Human Rights Advocates International, Inc.

Human Rights around the World
Human Rights in China

Human Rights Internet

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Web

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

International Campaign to Ban Landmines
International Committee of the Red Cross

International Criminal Court Home Page

International Federation of Journalists
or http://ifj.org/links.htmf#int
International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearinghouse
International Labor Organization

Internet Privacy Coalition Alerts

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights

Moscow Center for Human Rights

PEN/Freedom to Write

Religious Freedom International

Save the Children

United Nations Centre for Human Settlements - Habitat
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

United Nations Development Programs (UNDP)

United Nationas High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

U.S. Department of States Human Rights Country Report

Witness for Peace
World Health Organization

***For extensive regional and local sites, please refer to the American Association for
the Advancement of Science Directory of Human Rights Resources on the Internet

VII. Glossary of Terms for Internet Resources:

Anonymous FTP:
The procedure of connecting to a remote computer, as an anonymous or guest user, in order to transfer public files back to your local computer.
Shorthand for America Online.
Apple’s commercial online information service.
ASCII: (American Standard Code for Information Interchange)
In the context of a file, an ASCII file contains only "text" characters - numbers, letters, and standard punctuation.
Files that are linked to a specific email message, just as you might fasten a clipping to a letter.
A cooperative computer network interconnecting over 2,300 academic and research institutions in 32 countries.
In the context of a file, any file that contains non-textual data. Images and applications are examples of this.
BPS: (Bits per second)
The measurement of modem transportation speed.
A client program that enables one to search through the information provided by a specific type of server. Generally used in relation to the World-Wide Web.
The program or computer that requests information from a server computer.
Client-Server Interface:
A program that provides an interface to remote programs (called clients), most commonly across a network, in order to provide these clients with access to some service such as databases, printing, etc.
One of the oldest and largest commercial online services. AKA "CIS."
Connect Time:
The amount of time you are actually connected to and using the computer. Because connect or telephone charges are based upon this amount of time, you want to keep it as low as possible.
CREN: (Computer Research and Education Network)
The new name for the merges computer networks, BITNET and Computer Science Network (CSNET).
A level of hierarchy in a machine’s full nodename. (usually .com, .org, or .gov)
DNS: (Domain Name System)
The Internet naming scheme which consists of a hierarchical sequence of names. From the most specific to the most general, separated by dots. For example: nic.ddn.mil.
The electronic transfer of files from one computer to another, usually a host machine, to your machine.
Electronic Bulletin Board:
A shared file where users can enter information for other users to read or download. Many bulletin boards are set up according to general topics and are accessible throughout a network.
FAQ: (Frequently Asked Questions)
Lists of commonly asked questions and their answers, often posted in newsgroups to reduce the number of questions.
FTP: (File Transfer Protocol)
Allows a user to transfer files electronically from remote computers back to the user’s computer. The finished site is known as an FTP site or a "file site"
A computer that exists on two networks, such as the Internet and BITNET, and can transfer mail between them.
An information retrieval system created by the University of Minnesota. In wide acceptance on the Internet, Gopher is one of the most useful resources available.
Home Page:
In the World-Wide Web, the document that you access first after launching a Web browser.
Host Computer:
A computer that directly provides service to a user. In contrast to a network server, which provides services to a user through an intermediary host computer.
HTML: (HyperText Markup Language)
The language used to mark up text files with styles and links for use with the WWW browsers.
HTTP: (Hyper Text Transport Protocol)
The protocol used by the World-Wide Web.
A term created to describe non-linear writing in which you follow associative paths through a world of textual documents.
The series of interconnected networks that includes local area. Regional and national backbone networks. Networks in the Internet use the same telecommunications protocol (TCP) and provide electronic mail, remote login and FTP’s.
IRC: (Internet Relay Chat)
A world-wide network of people talking to each other in real time over the Internet rather than in person.
A powerful program for automating mailing lists.
LAN: (Local Area Network):
Two or more computers connected together via network cables
Stands for modulator-demodulator because that’s what it does. In reality, it lets your computer talk to another via the phone lines.
A discussion group on Usenet devoted to talking about a specific topic. Currently, about 5,000 newsgroups exist.
NIC: (Network Information Center)
A NIC provides administrative support and information services for a network.
POP: (Post Office Protocol):
A protocol for the storage and retrieval of email. Eudora uses POP.
A mutually determined set of formats and procedures governing the exchange of information between systems.
Remote Access:
The ability to access a computer from outside the building. It requires hardware, software and actual physical links.
Microcomputer software distributed through public domain channels, for which the author expects to receive compensation.
System administrator:
The person who runs your host machine or network.
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol is a combined set of protocols that perform the transfer of data between two computers in a safe manner
A piece of hardware that lets you interact with a character-based operating system.
A portion of the TCP/IP suite of software that handles terminals. Other functions include allowing a user to log in to a remote computer from the user’s local computer.
Terminal Server:
A machine connecting terminals to a network by providing host TELNET service.
To send a file to another machine.
The name you use to log in to another computer.
WAN: (Wide-Area network)
A group of geographically separated computers connected via dedicated lines or satellite links.
World-Wide Web: (WWW):
The newest and most ambitious of the special Internet services. WWW browsers can display styled text and graphics.