The Internet and freedom of expression
A meeting devoted to the Internet and freedom of expression was held on 8 July 2010 at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, on the initiative of the French and Dutch Foreign Ministers. It brought together around 60 participants, representatives of 17 governments, NGOs, businesses and international organizations. It was opened by Bernard Kouchner and his Dutch counterpart Maxime Verhagen.
The participants noted the growing number of attacks on freedom of expression on the Internet. In order to fight the negation, in the new media, of this fundamental freedom, they agreed on the need for all State and non-State actors to mobilize.
They have begun work on four major objectives:
to improve the monitoring of commitments made by States with respect to freedom of expression on the Internet, they stressed the importance of observation and alert mechanisms and recognized the need to coordinate or establish a network between the existing initiatives;
to increase companies’ accountability in the face of the risks of the misuse of their technologies by authoritarian regimes, they agreed on the urgent need for more effective enforcement of the rules of social accountability;
to come to the aid of cyber-dissidents confronted by a crackdown on freedom of expression, the participants proposed some very concrete measures which could be implemented through the NGOs active in the field;
finally, regarding the legal issues relating to the Internet, the standards of international law on freedom of expression do seem to provide the framework for action, but need to be implemented more effectively in the specific context of the new networks by broadening the scope of the discussions on the nature of the Internet, described as a “global public resource” by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and “global public good” by the European Parliament.
The participants decided to pursue these discussions in the coming months: a ministerial conference will be held in Paris this October; a second meeting will be organized in the Netherlands before the end of 2010./.