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Groups call on UN to protect free expression online

UPDATE: The statement was presented on 19 June and the resolution was passed with consensus by the UN Human Rights Council on 26 June 2014

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay delivers an address at the 26th Council Session in Gevena
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay delivers an address at the 26th Council Session in Gevena

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The following is a transcript of a joint oral statement, led by ARTICLE 19 and supported by several IFEX members, that was read aloud today, 19 June 2014, at the 26th UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva:

Endorse a United Nations resolution on human rights and the Internet

Thank you Mr. President,

Two years ago this Council affirmed by consensus that "the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression".

In 2014, the outcome document of Net-Mundial in Brazil recognised the vital role of the Internet to achieve the full realisation of sustainable development goals. 31 UN Special Rapporteurs recently affirmed that guaranteeing the free-flow of information online ensures transparency and participation in decision-making, enhancing accountability and the effectiveness of development outcomes.

Development and social inclusion relies on the Internet remaining a global resource, managed in the public interest as a democratic, free and pluralistic platform. States must promote and facilitate universal, equitable, affordable and high-quality Internet access for all people on the basis of human rights and net-neutrality, including during times of unrest.

The blocking of communications, such as the shutdown of social media in Malaysia, Turkey, and Venezuela is a violation of freedom of expression and must be condemned. Dissent online must be protected. We deplore the detention of Sombat Boonngamanong in Thailand, who faces up to 14 years imprisonment for using social media to urge peaceful resistance to the recent military coup in the form of a three-finger salute.

One year after the Snowden revelations, this Council must recognise that trust in the Internet is conditional on respect for the rights to freedom of expression and privacy online, regardless of users' nationality or location. Any mass (or dragnet) surveillance, which comprises collection, processing and interception of all forms of communication, is inherently disproportionate and a violation of fundamental human rights.

The targeted interception and collection of personal data must be conducted in accordance with international human rights law, as set out in the necessary and proportionate principles. Critical and intermediate infrastructure must not be tampered with for this end, nor should any system, protocol or standard be weakened to facilitate interception or decryption of data.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Human Rights Council to take action to comprehensively address these challenges.

Thank you.


ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
Africa Freedom of Information Centre
Albanian Media Institute
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Independent Journalism - Romania
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Freedom Forum
Human Rights Watch
Index on Censorship
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
International Press Institute
Maharat Foundation
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
National Union of Somali Journalists
Norwegian PEN
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN Canada
Privacy International
Reporters Without Borders
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media
West African Journalists Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC

Alternative Informatics
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communications (BNNRC)
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Big Brother Watch
Bir Duino (Kyrgyzstan)
Bits of Freedom
Bolo Bhi Pakistan
Bytes For All
Center for e-parliament Research
Centre for Internet & Society
Center for National and International Studies, Azerbaijan
Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
Chaos Computer Club
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan
Electronic Privacy Information Center
English Pen
European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL)
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor
Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Lithuania
International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Open Net Korea
Open Rights Group
Panos Institute West Africa
Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)
Simon Davies, publisher of “Privacy Surgeon”
Thai Netizen Network
Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum

What other IFEX members are saying

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