BUDAPEST, 1 June 2011 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, said today that in the 21st century access to the Internet is the foundation for pluralism and free media, and there can be no justification for government regulations to impede Internet access.
“The Internet provides unparalleled opportunities to enhance free expression and pluralism. It is an essential element to build and strengthen democracy,” said Mijatović after signing a Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet in Budapest.
“The Internet has given billions of people throughout the world access to information to make informed decisions and make their voices heard regardless of their position or status,” Mijatović said.
Mijatović warned that too many governments are using disingenuous arguments to block their citizens' right to access.
“Governments that block websites are engaging in a virulent form of censorship that is simply unacceptable,” she said. “Cutting off access on the grounds of national security or public order should never serve as a pretext for hindering freedom of expression and the free flow of information.”
The Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet was also today signed by three special rapporteurs on free speech: Frank LaRue, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Catalina Botero, the Organization of American States Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression (in absentia) and Faith Pansy Tlakula, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, with the assistance of ARTICLE 19, Global Campaign for Free Expression and the Centre for Law and Democracy.
The signing took place in the margins of an expert consultation on national security and access to information, organized by the Open Society Justice Initiative and hosted by Central European University.
In the Joint Declaration, the four free expression advocates agreed, inter alia:
• Freedom of expression applies to the Internet, as it does to all means of communication. Restrictions on freedom of expression on the Internet are only acceptable if they comply with established international standards, including that they are provided for by law, and that they are necessary to protect an interest which is recognized under international law;
• No one who simply provides technical Internet services such as providing access, or searching for, or transmission or caching of information, should be liable for content generated by others;
• Content filtering systems which are imposed by a government or commercial service provider and which are not end-user controlled are a form of prior-censorship and are not justifiable as a restriction on freedom of expression;
• Self-regulation can be an effective tool in redressing harmful content, and should be promoted; and
• Network neutrality should be observed. There should be no discrimination in the treatment of Internet data and traffic, based on the device, content, author, origin and/or destination of the content, service or application.
A full text of the Joint Declaration can be found at: http://www.osce.org/fom/78309