[WSIS CS-Plenary] Revised theme on freedom of expression
mueller at syr.edu
Fri Mar 24 21:41:39 GMT 2006
A few revisions were made to the proposed theme for the Internet Governance Forum, mostly to the last paragraph. The new version is appended below; it is supported now by Internet Governance Project, RSF, and Article 19.
THEME PROPOSAL: Internet content filtering and free expression
a. The proposed theme
Are the Internet filtering and censorship practices of states compatible with Article XIX of the UN Declaration on Human Rights? Is it possible to develop a protocol to guide private Internet service providers and hosting companies toward ethical interactions with the governments of countries that heavily regulate and censor content? How can countries with different notions of legal and illegal content reconcile these differences in a way that maximizes the freedom and value of the Internet and makes it possible for Internet service providers to operate in a more secure and stable legal environment?
b. Why it is important
Access to information and free communication is at the heart of the Internet's value. Conflicts over content controls have created a number of tensions, e.g., between multinational Internet service companies such as Google, Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and various national governments. Content regulation, filtering and censorship are issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing international body, but cut across many of them; e.g., UNESCO, ICANN, ITU and WIPO.
c. How it is in conformity with the Tunis Agenda
Paragraph 42 of the Tunis Agenda reaffirms the UN's "commitment to the freedom to seek, receive, impart and use information, in particular, for the creation, accumulation and dissemination of knowledge." Paragraph 46 encourages "governments to reaffirm the right of individuals to access information according to the Geneva Declaration of Principles and other mutually agreed relevant international instruments, and to coordinate internationally as appropriate." Paragraph 60 expresses the recognition that "there are many cross-cutting international public policy issues that require attention and are not adequately addressed by the current mechanisms."
d. How it fits within the mandate of the IGF as detailed in para 72;
Paragraph 72(a) empowers the Forum to "discuss public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance in order to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet." 72(b) mandates it to "facilitate discourse between bodies dealing with different cross-cutting international public policies regarding the Internet and discuss issues that do not fall within the scope of any existing body."
e. Who the main actors in the field are, who could be encouraged to participate in the thematic session
There are no "main actors" in this area but a wide variety of actors, e.g., individual dissidents, national and multinational internet service providers, national governments, civil society advocacy groups, professional associations in the news media, content rating standards proponents, and international organizations.
f. Why this issue should be addressed in the first annual meeting of the Forum rather than in subsequent ones
Freedom of expression is fundamental to the Internet. To discuss the issue of Internet governance without raising this vital question would deprive the IGF of all credibility as well as a successful outcome to its work. Such a decision would moreover raise an outcry among freedom of expression organisations and would tarnish this forum's image from its very first meeting.
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