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International20.06.2005

Reporters Without Borders and the OSCE make six recommendations to ensure freedom of expression on the Internet.

This declaration by Reporters Without Borders and the representative of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) on Freedom of the Media aims to deal with the main issues facing countries seeking to regulate online activity. Should the Web be filtered? Can online publications be forced to register with the authorities? What should the responsibility of service providers (ISPs) be? How far does a national jurisdiction extend?

Reporters Without Borders thinks the six recommendations go beyond Europe and concern every country. It hopes they will provoke discussion in the run-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Full text of the Declaration :

1. Any law about the flow of information online must be anchored in the right to freedom of expression as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. In a democratic and open society it is up to the citizens to decide what they wish to access and view on the Internet. Filtering or rating of online content by governments is unacceptable. Filters should only be installed by Internet users themselves. Any policy of filtering, be it at a national or local level, conflicts with the principle of free flow of information.

3. Any requirement to register websites with governmental authorities is not acceptable. Unlike licensing scarce resources such as broadcasting frequencies, an abundant infrastructure like the Internet does not justify official assignment of licenses. On the contrary, mandatory registration of online publications might stifle the free exchange of ideas, opinions, and information on the Internet.

4. A technical service provider must not be held responsible for the mere conduit or hosting of content unless the hosting provider refuses to obey a court ruling. A decision on whether a website is legal or illegal can only be taken by a judge, not by a service provider. Such proceedings should guarantee transparency, accountability and the right to appeal.

5. All Internet content should be subject to the legislation of the country of its origin ("upload rule") and not to the legislation of the country where it is downloaded.

6. The Internet combines various types of media, and new publishing tools such as blogging are developing. Internet writers and online journalists should be legally protected under the basic principle of the right to freedom of expression and the complementary rights of privacy and protection of sources.

Download the declaration
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Obstacles to the free flow of information online

Analyses :
A call for vigilance
Let’s not forget 10 September 2001
On a Filtered Internet, Things Are Not As They Seem
Choose a country :
3 June 2009 - United States
President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
2 June 2009 - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
26 May 2009 - Egypt
Blogger fined nearly 6,000 euros for accusing chemical company of pollution
20 May 2009 - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
19 May 2009 - Syria
Proposed press law reform poses new threat to Internet
15 May 2009 - Burma
Growing restrictions on free flow of information
14 May 2009 - Bahrain
Authorities step up offensive against journalists and websites
12 May 2009 - Fiji
Government arrests two journalists in another “warning shot” for press freedom
11 May 2009 - Malaysia
Human rights lawyer P. Uthayakumar freed
5 May 2009 - Turkey
YouTube completes a year of being blocked in Turkey

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