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29 February 2012

UNHRC Discusses Internet Freedom Today

The Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has initiated a panel discussion about Internet freedom held in the United Nations Human Rights Council today. This is the first time the Council takes up this hot topic.

Fight about the future of the internet
There is an ongoing fight between countries that want to see a greater government influence over the Internet, for example Russia, China and Iran, and countries like Sweden, who want a more open internet. Sweden prefers that issues of internet governance are debated in forums where civil society, business and others have a real influence.

Fundamentals must be agreed on
The purpose of the discussion is to point out what the member countries of the UN Council can do to protect and promote freedom of expression on the internet, and to highlight the major threats to this fundamental right. “It is important to make sure we have the same respect for human rights and freedoms online as we have offline”, says Mr. Bildt. Getting that message accepted is fundamental to what we can do. With that agreed on we can establish a theoretical base for the global discussion about freedom on the internet.”

Information flow crucial for human rights
In his speech for the Human Rights Council today, Mr. Bildt pointed out how important the internet and social media had been for the so called Arab Spring, and he gave his full support to the people who revolted against tyranny and corruption. He saluted the men and women who fight for human rights all over the world and often take high personal risks. “They are the ones who fight in the front line for the values that we promote”, he stated. Mr. Bildt pointed out how important the free flow of information is for the continued human rights work. “Such access challenges oppression”.

I don’t expect a concrete result of today’s discussion in the Human Rights Council, but it is important that the question is debated at high international levels, and I hope Mr. Bildt’s initiative will at least be one little step in the right direction.