Internet disconnection breaches free expression rights, says OSCE

Countries that block internet access on copyright infringement grounds are stifling freedom of expression and the free flow of information, according to a new report on the internet and freedom of speech.The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said that website blocking was “an extreme measure” that countries should not use as a means of punishment. The OSCE is made up of 56 member countries and aims to identify, prevent and solve areas of political, economic and other areas of conflict.To read this OUT-LAW News report in full, see: see:OSCE media freedom representative calls on governments to recognize access to the Internet as a human right [news release]
Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, called on governments to treat Internet access as a human right that should be enshrined in their constitutions, in testimony today at the U.S. Helsinki Commission.”In order to pay tribute to the unique contribution the Internet has given to participatory democracy, to freedom of expression and to freedom of the media, it is only fitting to enshrine the right to access the Internet on exactly that level where such rights belong, as a human right with constitutional rank,” Mijatović said. “Without this basic requirement, without the means to connect, without an affordable connection, the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media become meaningless in the online world. The second requirement is to stop restricting free flow of information on the Internet. The free flow of information is the oxygen of cyberspace! Without it the Internet becomes a useless tool.”Mijatović spoke at a Commission hearing devoted to Internet freedom in the OSCE region. The Representative’s Office last week presented the results of the first OSCE-wide study on Internet regulation. The report is available at:ć also addressed attempts by governments to block or filter online content: “Why do certain governments try to block, restrict and filter this flow? To protect us from terrorism, extremism, child pornography, human trafficking and other forms of threats, and make our societies more secure?”Mijatović continued: “Or is it only to prevent criticism, satire, provocative and shocking comments, differing views and tasteless or controversial content? For that they do not have permission. We as citizens that voted for them never asked them or obliged them to shape our minds and opinions.” “There is no security without free media and free expression, and no free expression and free media without security, she said. These two terms should go hand in hand, and not fight each other like we see in so many parts of the world, and there is no better place to address both than at the OSCE. Security and human rights are both at the heart of Helsinki Process and the Astana Commemorative Declaration, and the OSCE principles and commitments that we share.”Mijatović’s testimony is available at: marked Mijatović’s second appearance before the Helsinki Commission, an independent U.S. Government agency created in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE commitments. In June 2010 she told the Commission that governments needed to step up efforts to combat the growing problem of violence against journalists.

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