Freedom of expression and hate speech continue to dominate internet rights discourse at UPR

BOGOTA, May 21 (APC)


Between 22 April and 3 May 2013, the UN Human Rights Council held the 16th session of its Universal Periodic Review. The human rights records of 14 countries were under review including Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Canada, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Germany, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

As part of the internet rights are human rights (IRHR) project, APC, together with its members and partners, developed submissions for the inclusion of internet-related human rights issues in the recommendations made for the reviews of Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Canada and Colombia.
Azerbaijan received one recommendation from the Czech Republic specifically referencing Internet Rights, to “[t]ake effective measures to ensure the full realization of the rights to freedom of expression, including on the internet”. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan received similar recommendations.

Cameroon, Canada and Colombia did not receive IR-specific recommendations, but did receive recommendations regarding issues that APC members and its network encompass in their work including freedom of the press, protection of journalists and human rights defenders, education, freedom of association and violence against women. APC continues to develop partnerships in these countries and to look for strategic leverage points for future advocacy.

In the review of Bangladesh, it was pointed out that there has been increasing international attention to media expression after the arrest of the acting editor of Amar Desh and nineteen other employees of that newspaper. Bangaldesh received a recommendation from Norway to “[t]ake effective measures to ensure freedom of expression and a safe enabling environment for social media,” and another recommendation from Canada to “[t]ake steps to ensure that civil society can operate without intimidation and to ensure freedom of the press, including for independent media.”

Finally, during the review of Germany, the country received a number of recommendations regarding online hate speech from China, Iran, Uruguay and Malaysia, including a recommendation from Uruguay to “strengthen all necessary measures to effectively prohibit and prevent incitement to hatred and racist propaganda, particularly on the internet.”

These recommendations demonstrate the growing trend for States to recognise the impact of the internet on fundamental rights to expression and freedom from discrimination. At the same time, it is necessary to raise awareness of the impact of the internet on other important human rights issues, including violence against women, education and freedom of association. APC will continue to work to raise awareness of these human rights issues at the Universal Periodic Review and other international human rights mechanisms.

About the Association for Progressive Communications

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that wants everyone to have access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world.

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