OSCE: Media freedom representative publishes report on Internet governance in OSCE region

VIENNA, 26 July 2007 – Implications of Internet regulation on media freedom in the OSCE region are the focus of a report presented by Miklós Haraszti, the Organization’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, in Vienna today.

The publication offers case studies from different parts of the OSCE region on how governments, civil society and the telecommunications industry can co-operate in their approaches to Internet governance.

“The Internet is an additional – and in some regions the only – source for media pluralism,” said Haraszti. “Internet governance is not only about technical standards or the Domain Name System. It also has commercial, cultural and social implications, concerning issues like the free flow of information, the fight against intolerance, and freedom of the online media.”

“Involving all of society’s actors is a difficult task and there is no ready-made approach suiting all OSCE countries. These case studies highlight good practices, but also show where there is room for improvement,” he added.

The United Nations has addressed the issue of Internet governance at World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva and Tunis, and has established a new Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in which the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media participates.

The publication, entitled ‘Governing the Internet – Freedom and Regulation in the OSCE Region’, is available from the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and online at: www.osce.org/fom/publications.html

The publication has been financed by the Governments of France and Germany.

Bibliographical note:

Christian Moeller/Arnaud Amouroux (eds.) Governing the Internet – Freedom and Regulation in the OSCE Region. 2007. Vienna: OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. ISBN 3-9501955-4-8.

(Source: http://www.osce.org/item/25756.html)

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IGF 2007 Workshop Proposals Online

Proposals for workshops submitted for the IGF 2007 in Rio are now published at http://info.intgovforum.org/wsl2.php.

A number of FOEonline coalition members submitted workshop proposals.  As the demand for workshop slots outweighs the number of available time slots the IGF Secretariat invites proposers to consider merging workshops before 22 July.

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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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Some People Think the Internet is a Bad Thing: The Struggle for Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace

Join Amnesty International UK and the Observer Newspaper for a unique global event. On 6 June we will use the internet to link activists from around the world to discuss the struggle against internet repression and to celebrate the irrepressible desire of people towards freedom of expression.

Wednesday 6 June 18.30 (UK/19.30 Europe/13.30 EST/ 10.30 PST)

Speakers include: Martha Lane Fox, Clark Boyd, Richard Stallman, Ron Deibert, Sami Ben Garbia, Josh Wolf, Morton Sklar, Yan Sham-Shackleton, Markus Beckedahl, Kevin Anderson, Shava Nerad and contributions from Jimmy Wales, Cory Doctorow, Ethan Zuckerman, Dan Gillmor, Yu Ling and Jonathan Zittrain.

A unique global event linking activists from around the world to discuss the struggle against internet repression. Wherever you are, you will be able to watch the debate live on the day by webcast, and ask questions at www.amnesty.org.uk/webcast.

For sneak preview of the event go to www.amnesty.org.uk/irrepressible.

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FOEonline Contributes to IGF Open Consultations

The Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media Online (FOEonline) today submitted a ontribution to the IGF Open Consultations in Geneva on 23 May. Please see the whole text of the Contribution below:

Contribution to the Synthesis Paper for theInternet Governance Forum Open Consultation on 23 May 2007 

From Members of the Dynamic Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media Online
(FOEonline)

Freedom of Expression Online

The 2003 WSIS Geneva Declaration on Principles reaffirms “as an essential foundation of the Information Society, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that 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. Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the foundation of all social organization. It is central to the Information Society. Everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to participate and no one should be excluded from the benefits the Information Society offers.” 

The “Free Expression Online” Dynamic Coalition (FOEonline) appreciates this opportunity to contribute to the debate on Internet governance policy matters.  FOEonline would like to emphasize that freedom of expression is a widely recognized basic human right that is fundamental to human growth and development. 

A broadly recognized right to freedom of expression and communication is guaranteed in many of the major international treaties dealing with civil liberties.  Many of these treaties are legally binding on countries and many recognize the need for freedom of expression “in any medium”, foreshadowing the battles of the digital environment.  Freedom of expression rights should not be devalued on the Internet and individuals must retain their existing rights to communicate in the new online environment.

Protecting freedom of expression on the Internet in crucial because free expression is:

– the foundation of democracy;

– essential to the individual pursuit of happiness;

– a tool that provides protection for other foundational human rights and basic freedoms;

– and it promotes education and enables human development.

Many of the world’s citizens live in countries that are parties to international treaties that guarantee freedom of expression, making it one of the most basic and universally accepted human rights.  Among the agreements that protect freedom of expression and communication rights include:

  • 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19)
  • 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19)
  • 1981 African Charter on People’s and Human Rights (Article 9)
  • 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 10)
  • Inter-American Bill of Rights:
    1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article 4)
    1978 American Convention on Human Rights (Article 13)

IGF 2007 in Rio de Janeiro

Given the foregoing, FOEonline requests that the IGF community consider the following points in its planning for the 2007 IGF meeting in Rio de Janeiro:

·        Freedom of expression and communication rights should have a prominent place in the agenda of the 2007 IGF meeting since they are implicated by all of the 4 main IGF themes, and in particular is integral to the “Openness” main theme.

  • “Best practices” in Rio should include consideration of free expression, since it is one of the most important values for development in an information/communication age.
  • Civil liberties, such as freedom of expression online or privacy – but not limited to these – should be a cross-cutting theme that all workshops and main sessions should take into consideration in the light of their respective topic.
  • The implications of technical developments or standards on civil liberties should be taken into account at every stage.  A multi-stakeholder and a cross-dimensional approach could be one of the added values of the IGF.
  • The main theme of “Openness” should be retained for the Rio meeting and even strengthened, given its paramount role in protecting the rights of Internet users to communicate freely and protect other fundamental rights.   Promoting an open Internet infrastructure is one of the best ways of protecting freedom of expression and the free flow of information in cyberspace.

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Internet Governance Workshop in Graz

The FOEonline coalition has been presented today during a workshop on ‘The European Dimension of Internet Governance‘ at the Institute of International Law and International Relations at Graz University (Austria).

Other speakers on perspectives on multi-stakeholder participation and human rights in the information society included Henrik Kaspersen, Director of the Computer Law Institute of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Meryem Marzouki of CNRS Paris, Martin Bredl of Telekom Austria, together with experts from the Czech Domain Name Arbitration Court or nic.at.

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RSF issues petition for the release of Egyptian bloggers

At the occasion of World Press Freedom Day the media NGo Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) issued a petition for the release of “Kareem Amer” and of his colleague Abdul-Moneim Mahmud.

RSF asks Internet-users to sign the petition on www.rsf.org, in which the worldwide press freedom organisation calls on the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a conference organised under the UN mantle, to block Egypt from hosting the event in 2008 unless the two bloggers are freed.

The petition will be sent, on 6 November 2007, exactly one year after the arrest of “Kareem Amer”, to Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, to Executive Coordinator of the IGF, Markus Kummer, as well as to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

For more information visit the organization’s website at www.rsf.org.

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