Wednesday, June 08, 2011

UNESCO unveils freedom of expression on Internet

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has unveiled its latest in shelf publication ‘Freedom of Connection – Freedom of Expression: The Changing Legal and Regulatory Ecology Shaping the Internet.’

The Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO, Mr. Janis Karklins, who presided over the ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters on said that while the Internet is empowering individuals more than ever, there is an increase globally in content filtering and censorship.

“This is one of key messages from the launching ceremony of the UNESCO publication, Freedom of Connection – Freedom of Expression: The Changing Legal and Regulatory Ecology Shaping the Internet,” he said.

Karklins noted that Prof. William Dutton, the leading author of the book and Director of Oxford Internet Institute, gave a presentation and answered questions during the meeting, which was attended by Permanent Delegates to UNESCO and representatives of civil society.Dutton, he said, had highlighted that this UNESCO-commissioned research provides a new perspective on the social and political dynamics behind the threats to expression.

“Through a meta-analysis of Internet filtering studies, the book shows that there is a rising level of censorship and filtering,” he said, arguing against focusing too narrowly on Internet content filtering.

His framework on the “ecology of freedom of expression” suggested a broader focus on six inter-related areas that are shaping freedom of expression to include technical initiatives, related to connection and disconnection; digital rights, including those tied directly to freedom of expression and censorship; industrial policy and regulation, comprising intellectual property, industrial strategies, and Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) for development; Additionally, he outlined measures focused on fraud, child protection, decency, libel and control of hate speech; network policy and practices, including standards related to identity, and regulation of Internet service providers; and security, ranging from controlling spam and viruses to protecting national security.Further, Dutton suggested that it is crucial for UNESCO to strengthen its efforts to reduce digital divides as a means to support freedom of expression.Mr Karklins pointed out that the infrastructure building should go hand in hand with local content creation.

He shared that UNESCO is co-organizing the broadband commission with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). And together with OECD and ISOC, UNESCO is conducting a study on the economic aspect of local content, which will be presented at the forthcoming Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2011. On the issue of Internet governance, Prof. Dutton made a point that nations could risk undermining the virtue of this global network of networks as an international public resource by nationalizing its Internet governance approaches.

He advised that there is a need to coordinate the global and local approaches to Internet governance in order to formulate appropriate regulatory model.

Remmy Nweke:
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