The Human Rights Council panel on freedom of expression and the internet

Publisher: APCNews    

On Wednesday February 29th 12:00-15:00 CET (11:00-14:00 UTC), the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) will convene an expert panel in Geneva to discuss the issue of freedom of expression on the internet. This will be the first time human rights on the internet has been specifically addressed by the HRC.
The significance of this panel is its explicit use of the principle that human rights, in their full scope and capacity, apply to the internet, making a crucial connection between internet activists and human rights defenders.

APC will be represented in the panel by Carlos Afonso from Nupef in Brazil and APC’s executive director Anriette Esterhuysen, ensuring that civil society and development interests will be properly addressed. (More information about panelists below)

The panel is the result of the Swedish government’s long work on the issue of freedom of expression on the internet, strongly supported by APC. In 2010 and 2011 a series of regional round table meetings was held together with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, supporting Mr. La Rue in writing his annual report which focused on freedom of expression on the internet around the world. APC supported the process through participation in the regional meetings and through a side event at the adoption of Mr. La Rue’s at the HRC in June 2010.

After rallying support, including a widely supported cross-regional statement, the resolution establishing the panel was adopted in September 2012.


Moderated by Mr. Riz Khan of Al-Jazeera News Agency the panel will consist of the following panelists:

Carl Bildt – Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden

Frank La Rue Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Anriette Esterhuysen – Executive Director, Association for Progressive Communications, South Africa

Carlos Afonso – Executive Director, Instituto Nupef, Brazil

William Echikson – Head of Free Expression, External Relations, Communications and Public Affairs, Google

Hesti Armiwulan – Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia.

With the objectives of drawing attention to the challenges and identifying practical steps that states can take to promote freedom of expression on the internet, the panel will address issues such as:

  • Effective ways to combat child pornography without jeopardizing the right to freedom of expression,

  • States’ positive obligations with regards to promoting freedom of expression on the internet,
    best practices to facilitate universal access to the internet, and to bridge the “digital divide” both between and within States,

  • How States can act to respect and promote equal opportunities in relation to the internet.


Please see below the official concept paper for the panel, outlining the full objectives and panel questions, as well as panel modalities.

APC believes the outcome of the panel can be strong and useful recommendations to states that human rights apply online, that states’ obligations to report on human rights includes reporting on human rights on the internet, that internet laws and policies must address, as well as respect, protect and promote human rights.

Follow the panel live and engage in the real-time discussion on twitter through #HRC19 #FXinternet and #APC

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