UN Declares Internet Access a Human Right

computer keyboard with an access keyThe United Nations Human Rights Council passed a nonbinding resolution a couple of weeks ago, condemning nations that blocked the “promotion, protection, and enjoyment of the internet.”

The resolution also stresses that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online” in regards to the free speech clause already protected by articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The resolution is a much-needed response to increased pressure on freedom of expression online in all parts of the world”, said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “From impunity for the killings of bloggers to laws criminalising legitimate dissent on social media, basic human rights principles are being disregarded to impose greater controls over the information we see and share online.”

While the resolution passed, it was opposed by a small number of countries that already have controversial stances on human rights in general, such as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, South Africa, and India.  Russia and China questioned the validity of a “human rights-based approach” towards internet access.

“We are disappointed that democracies like South Africa, Indonesia, and India voted in favor of these hostile amendments to weaken protections for freedom of expression online”, said Hughes. “A human rights based approach to providing and expanding Internet access, based on states’ existing international human rights obligations, is essential to achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and no state should be seeking to slow this down.”

While the resolution is not legally binding, it does force governments to pay closer attention to free speech concerns online.  The resolution also calls on governments to address issues related to cybersecurity, privacy and educating women and girls in ICTs.  

Global Wire Associates supports this UN resolution.  In 2016 Internet access is a basic human right.  Connectivity allows people from all walks of life and income levels to be on an equal-level playing field to apply for jobs, find housing, and most importantly, have access to information and knowledge.

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