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World Conference on International Telecommunications affirms right to freedom of information online

Delegates at the second Plenary session of the World Conference on International Telecommunications this week overwhelmingly supported the importance of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirming the right of all people...


December 5, 2012  


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Delegates at the second Plenary session of the World Conference on International Telecommunications this week overwhelmingly supported the importance of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirming the right of all people to freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The WCIT-12 conference is being held to renegotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), a binding global treaty that facilitates global interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, setting out general principles for ensuring the free flow of information around the world and promoting affordable and equitable access for all.

A proposal introduced by the delegation of Tunisia asked the conference to include in Article 1 new wording specifically protecting freedom of expression, noting that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online”. It asked that Member States protect the right to “all dissemination means through telecommunications and ICTs in the exercise of this right, as well as the freedom of online peaceful assembly.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also forthright on the need to assert freedom of expression in his video message to delegates at the opening of the conference on Monday.

“The Arab Spring showed the power of ICT to help people voice their legitimate demands for human rights and greater accountability …The management of information and communication technology should be transparent, democratic and inclusive of all stakeholders …The United Nation system stands behind the goal of an open Internet. The right to communicate is central to the ITU’s mission.”