FOEonline at Geneva Open Consultations

Mary Rundle of Harvard University today presented the position paper of the coalition at the IGF open consultations in Geneva. Here is her contribution: 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I’m speaking on behalf of the Free
Expression Online dynamic coalition that formed as a follow-up to the first
Internet Governance Forum meeting in Athens last year. This coalition celebrates
article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which holds that
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. The
coalition also looks to the 2003 WSIS Geneva declaration of principles, which
reads, in part, “Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human
need, and the foundation of all social organization.  It is central to the
information society.” I would like to call your attention to a contribution made
by the Free Expression Online dynamic coalition found on the IGF Web site under
“contributions.”  The paper tells how protecting freedom of expression on the
Internet is crucial because free expression is the foundation of democracy,
essential to the individual pursuit of happiness, and a tool that provides
protection for other foundational human rights and basic freedoms. Moreover,
this freedom promotes education and enables human development.  The paper also
urges, in planning for the Rio meeting, that the IGF community consider several
points.  And here I’ll note three. First, freedom of expression should have a
prominent place in the agenda, since it is implicated by all four of the main
IGF themes, especially the openness theme. Similarly, civil liberties as a whole
are cross-cutting, foundational concerns that all workshops and main sessions
should factor in. Finally, the IGF can add value by emphasizing a
multistakeholder and cross-dimensional approach in the development of
technologies and technical standards, as these processes carry serious
implications for civil liberties. On behalf of the Free Expression Online
dynamic coalition, I thank you for your attention to these concerns and best
practices that are foundational for a thriving information society.”

Many other speakers, including UNESCO and Council of Europe, also referred to freedom of expression online.

Also Henry Judy of the American Bar Association associated himself in his statement with FOEonline: “… as far as the substance is concerned, I would like to associate myself with the comments of the Free Expression Online dynamic coalition earlier today and with the point of the previous speaker from Australia as to the great importance of freedom of expression in this connection. Lawyers, when they are at their very best, deeply care about freedom, freedom of expression, of association, of communication, all of the fundamental values that are deeply embedded in U.N. documents, ranging from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the statement of millennium goals, to the WSIS declaration, and down to the theme of openness in the documents of this forum. In that regard, it is disturbing to see that the Internet, which is and must continue to be a tool of liberation, is being misused as a tool of exclusion, of repression, and even as a weapon. We would express the hope, Mr. Chairman, that the Rio meeting could be organized so that the themes of openness and security from misuse animate the proceedings. Thank you Mr. Chairman.”

Transcripts of the session can be found at the IGF website http://www.intgovforum.org.

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