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APC’s oral comment on agenda item 3: Interactive Dialogue Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.
APC congratulates both Special Rapporteurs on their reports.
In relation to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression: APC urges the Council to recognise that the protection of freedom of expression on the internet presents it with a historical challenge. The power of the internet as a tool for increasing access to the means of free expression is unprecedented. Mobile phones are bringing this power to many people previously excluded from access to the internet.
APC welcomes the response to these seismic changes by States which have embraced the opportunity for extending greater voice and participation to their citizens. APC believes this approach will contribute to peace building and our collective welfare much more effectively than restrictive policy and regulation, or arbitrary shutdowns. This includes addressing discrimination and inequality and advancing women’s human rights.
States do need to consider challenges such as cybercrime and approach them collaboratively. But it is vital that they do so in a manner that is consistent with human rights law.
The Special Rapporteur points out that access to the internet is a critical building block for exercising the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association. Access includes not only physical access to the internet but also access in local languages, and accessibility for disabled persons. More efforts should be made to ensure access by persons with disabilities to the internet.
The Special Rapporteur’s report is evidence of the need for the Council, with its special mandate and expertise, to ensure that policies at national, regional and global levels, including those involving business, are consistent with international human rights law and standards. .The HRC is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. To do this effectively it needs to actively consider how these rights can be secured on the internet.
- What are the concrete proposals for taking these issues forward?
- How can the Council monitor progress on these conclusions and recommendations?
- How can all mandate holders integrate internet related human rights issues into their work?
- Would it be useful for the Council establish a Panel on the topic of the internet, freedom of expression and human rights to consider these issues more thoroughly?
In relation to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women:
APC welcomes the proposals to utilise a holistic approach to the issue of violence against women, which recognizes the interconnection between multiple forms of discrimination and the generation of different forms of violence. APC also brings attention to emerging forms of technology mediated violence such as cyberstalking, digital surveillance, manipulation of personal information and images and sexual harassment that compromise women’s security and safety.
APC calls on States to acknowledge that restrictions (whether due to state, family or cultural reasons) to women’s use of the internet and communication technologies adversely affect women and girls rights to fully participate in cultural life and the full exercise of their citizenship within the evolving information society.
We encourage strategies that empower women to use technology, including the internet, to realise the full range of their human rights, combat discrimination and protect themselves from violence and to take part in framing policies that govern use of such technologies, including cybercrime legislation.