The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) has issued a joint statement expressing “deep concern” over increased State-sponsored disruptions of access to or dissemination of information online. Such disruptions, the Coalition said, undermine its goal of protecting and extending an open and interoperable Internet, as stated in the Tallinn Agenda.
Furthermore, government’s intent to deny members of the public access to Internet and mobile network services, will directly affect the freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly that are meant to be enjoyed online.
In as much as this State –sponsored efforts limit political opposition, peaceful Protestants,
human rights defenders and civil societies online engagement in ensuring openness, transparency and public accountability, these disruptions rarely meet the established test for restrictions on freedom of expression found in Article 19(3), and the right of peaceful assembly under Article 21, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Moreover, State-sponsored disruptions of access to or dissemination of information online do not conform with the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular the target to increase access to information and communications technologies.
The FOC highlighted the 2016 Human Rights Council resolution (A/HRC/RES/32/13) on the promotion, protection, and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet in its statement.
The resolution, which was unanimously adopted, condemns measures that intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law.
The Coalition therefore implored governments to stop practices that violate right to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, stating that “disruption of networks will only undermine the economic benefits of the Internet and disrupt access to essential services such as health care”.
In addition to the joint statement, the Coalition outlined good practices that can help governments refrain from network disruptions that violate right to freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly online, while bolstering multi-stakeholder, participatory and inclusive Internet governance, strengthening Internet infrastructure, and improving transparency, which will add to the economic and social growth the Internet brings states.
FOC called on governments, private sector, international organizations, civil society, and Internet Stakeholders to endorse the statement.
In addition, States that support an open and interoperable Internet have been invited to join the FOC.