Freedom of Expression on the Internet Cross-regional Statement

Det talade ordet gäller.

Mr President,
I have the honor of addressing the Human Rights Council on behalf of

Austria, Bosnia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Lithuania, fmr Yugoslav Rep of Macedonia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palestine, Peru, Poland, Senegal, South Africa, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States, Uruguay

Mr President,
The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action asserted that all human rights are interdependent and interrelated. The positive potential in that statement has been amply demonstrated by the incredible spread and use of modern communication technologies. As was stated also in this general debate in the Human Rights Council one year ago, these technologies have enabled ordinary citizens in all corners of the world, to disseminate their views and to communicate with others on a scale that was quite unimaginable not long ago. Internet, social media, and mobile phone technology have played, and should continue to play, a crucial role as instruments for participation, transparency and engagement in socio-economic, cultural and political development.

For us, one principle is very basic: The same rights that people have offline - freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek information, freedom of assembly and association, amongst others - must also be protected online.

We were pleased to see the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression endorse that same principle in his most recent report. That report, based on wide-ranging global consultations, including two expert meetings in Stockholm, is a timely contribution. But it will now be up to us, as member states, to translate several of its key recommendations into practical steps that will make a difference, as part of our work in this field.

The Internet should not be used as a platform for activities prohibited in human rights law. However, we believe, as does the Special Rapporteur, that there should be as little restriction as possible to the flow of information on the Internet. Only in a few exceptional and limited circumstances can restrictions on content be acceptable. Such restrictions must comply with international human rights law, notably article 19 of the ICCPR. We consider Government-initiated closing down of the Internet, or major parts thereof, for purposes of suppressing free speech, to be in violation of freedom of expression. In addition, Governments should not mandate a more restrictive standard for intermediaries than is the case with traditional media regarding freedom of expression or hold intermediaries liable for content that they transmit or disseminate.

We call on all states to ensure strong protection of freedom of expression online in accordance with international human rights law.

We also underscore the importance of privacy protection, which goes hand in hand with freedom of expression in the use of new technologies. Arbitrary or unlawful interference with anyone's privacy, family, home or correspondence as well as unlawful attacks on people's honor and reputation can undermine freedoms of expression, association and assembly. This right to privacy also applies to online communication and activities. With limited exceptions, individuals should be able to express themselves anonymously on the Internet.

Recognizing the global nature of the Internet, we share the key objective of universal access. Internet is a formidable force in generating development and promoting economic, social and cultural rights, and the present digital divide must be bridged to enable participation of all.

We also want to preserve and promote diversity on the Internet, both cultural and linguistic, and to promote local culture, regardless of language or script.

All users, including persons with disabilities, should have greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services, whether or not they are offered free of charge. In this context, network neutrality and openness are important objectives. Cutting off users from access to the Internet is generally not a proportionate sanction.

Decisions on Internet governance and policy issues, at global as well as regional levels, should be consistent with international human rights law, including protections for freedom of expression and the right to privacy, and reached in multilateral, transparent and democratic environments. In such environments, it is important that the multistakeholder principle is respected and that governments, the private sector, civil society, academic community and the entire Internet technical community work together to build greater trust in the ICT networks, including necessary cross-border co-operation.

As governments, we should encourage cooperative efforts by the private sector to promote respect for human rights online. Such efforts can address human rights impacts of action taken by the private sector and can encourage respect for human rights. Yet, while adherence to human rights principles by businesses has become essential to ensure online freedom of expression, it cannot be a substitute for the responsibility of governments to uphold human rights and the rule of law in all Internet and telecommunication policy and regulation.

Mr President,

The Internet has expanded the reach of freedom of expression for hundreds of millions of people around the world. We wish to join the efforts to protect these advances, while also working to make access to the new technologies affordable and universal.

We welcome all other states to associate themselves to this statement.

Thank you.