By Guest author

Over 30 digital and civil liberties organisations from around the world have endorsed a joint statement calling on the world’s governments not to expand surveillance measures in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. In addition to European Digital Rights (EDRi), signatories include Article19, digitalcourage, IT-pol, Vrijschrift, La Quadrature du Net, Panoptykon, Initiative für Netzfreiheit, FITUG e.V., Alternative Informatics Association, ORG, EFF, Effi, APTi, and Access.

It seems that even while events were unfolding in Paris, proposals and measures restricting civil liberties have been put forward – from France, Belgium, Spain, the United States, Australia to Turkey and beyond. One of the most notable examples is in the very wake of the attacks, the French government convened an extraordinary EU Home Affairs summit, as several leaders were in Paris for the Unity March. There, it was decided to move several concrete proposals forward, two of which would drastically impact human rights: 1) a controversial EU Passenger Name Record agreement that has been discussed in Brussels since 2011; and 2) ad-hoc measures for internet platforms to monitor and remove alleged hate speech.

The signatories of this statement have seen this before —a tragedy that leads to a dramatic expansion of security measures, without proper democratic scrutiny, providing the necessary checks and balances to ensure that other rights, like privacy and free association, aren’t undermined.

The letter invites the French government to conduct a thorough evaluation of relevant policies, before enacting new laws and policies that can harm fundamental rights.

In addition, it calls on these political leaders to:

  • Ensure the protection and defence of national level human rights protections, particularly free expression and privacy online and offline;
  • Engage citizens and institutions in a public dialogue on targeted solutions that can help protect society while upholding human rights;
  • Defend a free and open society where human rights are not only protected, but celebrated, and where diverse viewpoints, including the satirical perspectives embraced by Charlie Hebdo, can be expressed online and offline.

There are no easy or quick solutions. In difficult moments like these, we must defend the values of the society that we want to live in, or we risk undermining those values in the name of saving them. The letter is still open for signatories: all are welcome to join us in working toward a better world where free expression, privacy, and other human rights can thrive.

Open letter to the world’s governments in the wake of attack on Charlie Hebdo:
https://www.accessnow.org/pages/open-letter-to-the-worlds-governments-in-the-wake-of-attack-on-charlie-hebd

Charlie Hebdo Tragedy Must Not Be Used by Governments to Expand Surveillance:
https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2015/01/28/charlie-hebdo-tragedy-expand-surveillance

(Contribution by Raegan MacDonald, EDRi-member Access)

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