updated 11/15/2005 9:14:29 AM ET 2005-11-15T14:14:29

The European Union's compromise proposal on how to govern the Internet is gaining international support ahead of this week's U.N. technology summit, the EU's executive Commission said Tuesday.

The EU has been promoting its proposal ahead of the formal start on Wednesday of the three-day United Nations technology summit in Tunisia, the preparations for which have spurred accusations that the Tunisian government has barred entry to activists trying to attend the event.

At issue is the question of who gets to make the big decisions on how the Internet is run — a task that now solely belongs to the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, overseen by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Several countries have called for taking Internet oversight powers away from the U.S. government and establishing a separate U.N. agency to handle the job.  The Bush administration said in July that it does not want to change the way ICANN is run.

The EU sees itself as tracing a middle path between those positions, proposing a system where governments collaborate to make decisions on governance issues like spam, cybercrime and ensuring people all over the world have access to the Net.

That last issue has brought the spotlight on the summit's host country of Tunisia, which activists call one of the worst Internet censors.

Already, rights watchdogs say, both Tunisian and foreign reporters on hand for the summit have been harassed and beaten.  Reporters Without Borders says its secretary-general, Robert Menard, has been banned from attending.

On Sunday, a reporter with the French daily Liberation, Christophe Boltanski, was stabbed and kicked — but not seriously hurt — outside his hotel in Tunis.  Boltanski had been investigating the recent beating of human rights activists in the country.

EU officials will be "approaching Tunisian authorities to express concern that NGOs had difficulty attending meetings," said EU spokesman Martin Selmayr.  He added EU Technology Commissioner Viviane Redding plans to meet with representatives of freedom of expression organizations at the summit.

Tunisian authorities on Monday downplayed Boltanski's stabbing, saying it could have happened in any world capital.  "It is therefore inappropriate to blow up this incident beyond its real proportions," the government said in a statement.

Tunisian police have arrested two suspects.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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