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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (APC) Wednesday September 14 — At this extraordinary time for human rights, social media and the internet, we strongly endorse the proposal of the Swedish Government for an expert panel on the promotion and protection of freedom of expression on the internet to be convened at the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council.

We call on all UN Member States to support this initiative.

Following the annual report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression at the 17th Session of the Human Rights Council, forty governments affirmed that the same human rights that apply offline, also apply online, to the internet and social media. Those governments stated that “Only in a few exceptional and limited circumstances can restrictions on content be acceptable. Such restrictions must comply with international human rights law, notably Article 19 of the ICCPR.”

APC agrees that international human rights standards are the foundation for all States to respect, protect and promote human rights. These standards must apply to new technologies, including social media and the internet which are used by billions of people around the globe. The interface of human rights and the internet is a new issue for the Human Rights Council, but one that is quickly emerging in multiple areas. The Human Rights Committee recently released General Comment No. 34 on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) includes specific reference to the internet in the context of freedom of expression.

To be effective, the proposed panel must be constituted through an open process and ensure the engagement of all, particularly vulnerable and marginalised groups, in accordance with the rights based approach and principles of multi-stakeholder participation, information-sharing, participation and transparency.

There is a clear need for a process through which the Council can consider these issues across its mandate. The consideration of human rights online must be institutionalised if it is to be effective. An expert panel will start the necessary dialogue in the HRC which we believe should eventually extend beyond freedom of expression to include all human rights, civil and political as well as cultural, social and economic rights.

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.

If you wish to endorse this statement please send your name and organisation (if applicable) to with “Endorsement” in the subject line.


See also APC’s Joy Liddicoat explains the significance of Sweden’s proposal to the Human Rights Council to establish an expert panel on the internet and human rights.

And Sweden to propose expert panel on internet and human rights at the UN


Fundacion EsLaRed

OneWorld — Platform for Southeast Europe (OWPSEE)

Metamorphosis Foundation

Juliagruppen (The Julia Group)

The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition

Asesor de la Dirección Académica de la Academia de la Magistratura

Foundation for Media Alternatives

Internet Democracy Project

Fantsuam Foundation

La Fundación Azul

International Service for Human Rights


Reporters Sans Frontières

Article 19

Human Rights Watch