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UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression launches key report on Internet freedom

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - New York, 21.10.2011 - Today, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression launches a key report on internet free speech rights. In the report, the UN freedom of expression special mandate makes clear that online expression must remain free of censorship and calls on all States to ensure universal access to the internet. ARTICLE 19 hails the report as a milestone in the development of policy on freedom of expression as it relates to internet and urges all governments to fully implement its recommendations.

"The internet has become the main tool for freedom of expression. Access to the internet and the free flow of information online must be guaranteed, says Dr Agnes Callamard. "Today's report is a wake-up call for governments on internet freedom," she continues.

At a time when governments around the world increasingly seek to regulate the internet, today's report is a welcome reminder that States have a duty to guarantee the free flow of information and ideas online. The report stresses that only online child pornography, incitement to genocide, hate speech and incitement to violence can be prohibited under international law. It also makes clear, however, that even potentially reasonable restrictions on unlawful speech such as website blocking and filtering must be properly defined and proportionate in order to comply with human rights standards.

The Special Rapporteur further warns that the majority of the world's population still lacks effective access to the internet. The report recommends ways to make the internet more widely available, accessible and affordable to all without discrimination of any kind. He also makes a number of recommendations on digital literacy and ICT skills training.

ARTICLE 19 fully supports the Special Rapporteur's report and recommendations, which broadly reflect the standards that ARTICLE 19 has been advocating for several years. In particular, the report draws on the principles established in the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the internet, which was adopted by the four special mandates on freedom of expression in June 2011 and which ARTICLE 19 helped to draft.

ARTICLE 19 urges all States to fully implement the recommendations of the report as basic standards on internet freedom. ARTICLE 19 also encourages other NGOs and the media to support governments in these efforts by fully reporting on national laws and practices falling short of these standards.

Click below to read the Joint Declaration of the Four Mandates on Freedom of Expression:
international_mechanisms_for_promoting_freedom_of_expression.pdf (123 KB)

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