OSCE conference on media freedom on the Internet

By EDRi · June 29, 2005

The third OSCE Amsterdam Internet Conference was held on 17-18 June 2005.
The conference focused on the situation of information and communication
technologies (ICT) in the Southern Caucasus and Central Asian regions,
with experts from this region delivering presentations on the situation in
their countries. The debate showed that governmental over-regulation and
content censorship are common in Central Asian countries and pose a
serious danger to new media in the emerging Internet scene. “In countries
where almost all information is tightly controlled, the Internet is
already used, but it needs to be developed and more accessible to advocate
free speech, access to information and a stronger foundation for
democracy”, Mark Skogen of Access and Training Program (IATP) in
Kazakhstan stressed in his presentation.

An example of positive use of the Internet was given by Angela Beesley of
Wikipedia which empowers users to build an information resource as well as
a global free knowledge community to participate and to access.

The Conference closed on 18 June 2005 with the OSCE Representative on
Freedom of the Media issuing a “Joint Declaration on Guaranteeing Media
Freedom Online” together with the Paris-based NGO Reporters sans

The Declaration lists six main principles for protecting online media
freedom and stresses that in a democratic and open society citizens
themselves should decide what they wish to access and view on the
Internet. Any filtering or rating of online content by governments is
unacceptable and websites should not be required to register with
governmental authorities, the declaration states. The Declaration once
more stresses that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must not be held
responsible for the mere conduit or hosting of content unless they refuse
to obey a court ruling and that all Internet content should be subject to
the legislation of the country of its origin (‘upload rule’) and not to
the legislation of the country where it is downloaded.

This Declaration has been one of the arguments used by the French
Association of ISPs (AFA) against the filtering decision issued by a
French court, ordering 10 French ISPs to block access to a website hosted
in the US because of its holocaust denial and anti-Semitic content (see
EDRI-gram 3.12). In its press release, the AFA announced that the
concerned ISPs will appeal this decision.

EDRI-member IRIS also formerly contested the decision by raising the
democratic question. According to the French NGO, the case should not be
regarded, under the national legislation, as an issue of freedom of
expression of the content provider, but as the question of freedom of
information of French citizens, being denied by the court decision. IRIS
considers that this decision is one of the malicious effects of the French
digital economy law, a legislation that goes far beyond the E-commerce
Directive which it is supposed to transpose. This effect results in
allowing victims of damages to dictate their conceptions of the moral and
social norms, by deciding what may be read and what should be censored.

AFA press releases (in French, 23.06.2005 and 14.06.2005)

OSCE and RSF declaration on guaranteeing media freedom online (18.06.2005)

OSCE 3rd Amsterdam Internet Conference (17-18.06.2005)

IRIS press release (in French, 15.06.2005)

EDRI-gram 3.12, French court issues blocking order to 10 ISPs (15.06.2005)

(Thanks to Meryem Marzouki, EDRI-member IRIS)