OSCE: Access to the Internet should be a human right

By EDRi · July 13, 2011

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Deutsch: [OSZE: Netzzugang als Menschenrecht | http://www.unwatched.org/EDRigram_9.14_OSZE_Netzzugang_als_Menschenrecht?pk_campaign=edri&pk_kwd=20110721]

According to a report issued by the OSCE (Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe) on 8 July 2011, the Internet should remain free and
access to the Internet should be considered a human right.

The report, based on data received from OSCE participating states and on the
responses to a questionnaire sent in September 2010, presents the
conclusions of the first comprehensive research on Internet content
regulation in the OSCE region, having covered the legal provisions and
practices related to freedom of expression, the free flow of information and
media pluralism on the Internet.

The report shows concern related to the general trend in Europe towards a
regulated, controlled and censored Internet and the level of blocking
practices encountered in the OSCE region. “Restrictions to freedom of
expression must comply with international norms. No compliance could lead to
censorship,” said Yaman Akdeniz, the author of the report.

The study shows that filtering and blocking measures are in most cases
incompatible with freedom of expression and the free flow of information.
“Legislation in many countries does not recognize that freedom of expression
and freedom of the media equally apply to Internet as a modern means of
exercising these rights and in some of our states, ‘extremism’, terrorist
propaganda, harmful content and hate speech are vaguely defined and may be
widely interpreted to ban speech types that Internet users may not deem
illegal,” said Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE’s chief media freedom observer, who
presented the report.

According to the study, 20 countries, mostly from Eastern Europe and
Central Asia, prohibit so-called extreme speech on the internet with the
purpose to prevent criticism of the government, where several countries
allow for complete suspension of Internet services at times of war, in a
state of emergency and in response to other security threats.

The report also warns against the measures already adopted by France and
planned in the UK, to deny Internet access for users who have allegedly
violated copyright rules.

In the OSCE’s view, access to the Internet should be considered a
fundamental human right and respected as much as freedom of expression.
“Everyone should have a right to participate in the information society and
states have a responsibility to ensure citizens’ access to the Internet is
guaranteed,” says the report.

Mijatovic acknowledged that some governments recognise the Internet as a
human right and encouraged others to support this sentiment:”We will use the
study as an advocacy tool to promote speech-friendly Internet regulation in
the OSCE participating States,” Mijatovic said.

OSCE Press Release – Internet blocking practices a concern, access is a
human right, says OSCE media freedom representative at launch of OSCE-wide
study (8.07.2011)

OSCE Report – Freedom of Expression on the Internet – Study of legal
provisions and practices related to freedom of expression, the free flow of
information and media pluralism on the Internet in OSCE participating States

OSCE warns of Europe-wide trend to restrict internet content(8.07.2011)

Internet access a fundamental human right: OSCE (9.07.2011)