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U.N. Special Rapporteur: Internet Censorship Violation of Basic Human Rights

in Broadband's Impact/Cybersecurity/International by

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2011 – The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, presented his report on freedom of expression and the Internet to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, concluding that Internet access is a basic human right.

In what was hailed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a ‘landmark report,’ La Rue’s report also declared that disconnecting individuals from the Internet goes against international law.

According to La Rue’s profile on United Nations Human Rights website, a Special Rapporteur is appointed by the Human Rights Council as an independent, unpaid, expert. The position is honorary, and the Special Rapporteur’s job is to examine and report back in a country situation or specific human rights theme.

“This report explores key trends and challenges to the right of all individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet,” stated the report.  “The Special Rapporteur underscores the unique and transformative nature of the Internet not only to enable individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, but also a range of other human rights, and to promote the progress of society as a whole.”

The 22-page report addresses censorship, cyber-attacks, data protection and privacy, Internet access and the necessary infrastructure to enable Internet access.

“Indeed, the Internet has become a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said La Rue in the report.

The report was presented on the same day that Renesys Blog, the blog of Internet transparency firm, Renesys, reported that approximately two-thirds of all Syrian networks became unreachable from the global Internet. Renesys Blog confirmed that seven of the 40 Syrian networks were back online Saturday, June 4.

In February, United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made similar remarks in speech regarding Internet freedom to George Washington University.

“Internet freedom is about defending the space in which all these things occur so that it remains not just for the students here today, but your successors and all who come after you,” said Clinton.

Cynthia Wong, Director for Washington-Based Center for Democracy & Technology’s Project on Global Internet Freedom, said in a statement regarding the release of the report, “We welcome the Rapporteur’s report as a significant contribution towards the development of a progressive human rights jurisprudence for the Internet.”

“It’s a struggle for human rights, it’s a struggle for human freedom, and it’s a struggle for human dignity,” said Clinton.

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