Freedom of Expression on Internet and Social media

Session speakers.

Action Line C9 Media, WSIS Forum 2012

Webcast  (Webcast is provided in REAL media Format)

For the seventh year UNESCO convened a facilitation meeting on WSIS Action Line C9 Media at WSIS Forum 2012 in Geneva on 14 May 2012. This year the meeting focused on promoting freedom of expression on Internet and social media and UNESCO took the opportunity to promote its Internet freedom publication “Freedom of Connection, Freedom of Expression: the Changing Legal and Regulatory Ecology Shaping the Internet”.

Panelists and participates recognized that freedom of expression on Internet is a crucial challenge to address in formulating inclusive information society. Panelists from Council of Europe, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Association of Progressive Communication presented various challenge and threats for freedom of expression on Internet and shared recently developed international and regional standards and policy recommendations on protecting Internet freedom. Media stakeholders from Transforming Broadcasting, AMARC and ITU reported recent development of Public Service Broadcasting, Community Radio and digital switch over of broadcasting and shared their vision and good practice of strengthening traditional media through embracing and optimizing potential of Internet and ICTs. The representative from Transforming Broadcasting presented its new publication “A Road Map to Public Service Broadcasting” at the meeting.

Participants debated on how to apply and implement those principles, standards and recommendations of freedom of expression to Internet and social media in practice, given the complexity of information environment on Internet and challenge on applicable jurisdiction posed by trans-border nature of cyberspace. Many participants expressed their deep concern about Internet privacy, hatred speech, security, illegal uses of Internet and child pornography. Panelists suggested that freedom of expression needs to be promoted with legitimate limitations and in balance with other digital rights within an expanded legal and regulatory framework. Civil society stakeholders pointed out the challenge to deal with liability of intermediaries and governmental surveillance which might undermine freedom of expression, and particularly observed a trend that business interest are increasingly protected for the reason of copyright by developed countries, with freedom of expression and free flow of information sacrificed.

UNESCO has committed itself to enabling a free, open and accessible Internet space as part of promoting comprehensive Freedom of Expression online and offline and believes these discussions will contribute to WSIS review process particularly on exploring human rights implications of ICTs.

UNESCO has organized it in its capacity as facilitator of Action line 9: Media from 2006 to 2012, as part of UNESCO’s efforts to ensure regular dialogue and stimulate collaborations on media-related activities, in line with the objectives decided upon at the Geneva and Tunis Summits.

The WSIS 2003 Plan of Action states, in Action Line C9 Media: “The media - in their various forms and with a diversity of ownership - as an actor, have an essential role in the development of the Information Society and are recognized as an important contributor to freedom of expression and plurality of information.”


Chair: Mr Cedric Wachholz, UNESCO

Presentations by Panelists on Freedom of Expression on Internet and Social Media

  • Ms Elvana Thaçi, Council of Europe
  • Statement by Ms Katitza Rodriguez, international rights director at EFF(Electronic Frontier Foundation)
  • Ms Anriette Esterhuysen, APC

Stock-Taking Session on C9 Action Line

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