Landmark UN Resolution an Important Step for Global Internet Freedom

Freedom House applauds the adoption of a landmark resolution on freedom of expression online by the UN Human Rights Council. On July 5, the Council unanimously affirmed that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression”.

The resolution comes a year after Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, presented a report to the Council in Geneva underscoring that Internet freedoms are guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The resolution, titled “The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet,” is the first of its kind focusing on the applicability of human rights to online media. “This explicit recognition that the rights to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed under Article 19 extend to any and all platforms reinforces the fact that states have a responsibility to protect these rights on the Internet as well as in traditional media,” said Courntey C. Radsch, Senior Program Manager for Freedom House's Freedom of Expression Campaign.

Although the approved text is nonbinding, it passed with the support of China, known for its sophisticated system for filtering and censoring web content.  Nevertheless, it is an important step in determining how to incorporate new electronic frontiers into the established body of international human rights agreements.  It also firmly establishes the global acceptance of the principle of free expression on the Internet, even if its application has yet to be fully realized.

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Freedom on the Net 2011