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In partnership with members and networks, APC’s Internet Rights programme advocates for the protection, promotion and respect of human rights at the national level through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council involving a review of the human rights records of all UN member states.
With our members and partners, APC has submitted stakeholder reports in 16 countries on internet-related violations of freedom of expression and opinion, privacy, freedom of association, freedom from violence, the right to education and participation in public life. APC advocates strongly for the protection of human rights defenders and media workers, particularly those working on gender and sexuality.
In October 2012, the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan, of which APC is a member, made a coalition submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Azerbaijan. The report, for which APChas contributed its expertise on “restrictions on freedom of expression online” was considered at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council’s working group in April 2013. At the review, Azerbaijan accepted recommendations to “Expand media freedoms across print, online and, in particular, broadcast platforms” and “Take effective measures to ensure the full realization of the right to freedom of expression, including on the Internet”.
Working with Instituto Nupef and Sexuality Policy Watch, APC submitted a report to the Universal Periodic Review of Brazil in October 2011 on internet-related human rights issues. During its review in May 2012, Brazil accepted a recommendation from Estonia to give more consideration to freedom of expression when developing national cybercrime legislation, in order to ensure the protection of this fundamental right. The digital rights movement has been very active in Brazil, and in March 2014 Brazil passed the landmark Marco Civil Bill.
In consultation with Protege QV, APC submitted a joint report for the review of Cameroon in April 2013, focusing on on freedom of expression, freedom of association, violence against women, and protection of journalists, emphasising the danger to human rights posed by recent censorship of online content in Cameroon.
Working with a coalition, including CIPPIC, OpenMedia.ca, TeleCommunities Canada, Alternatives and Web Networks, APC submitted report to the UPR of Canada, which expressed concerns over the Bill C-30, online surveillance, and access to information, including reforming Canada’s Access to Information Act.
Despite advocacy, no internet-related recommendations were made at the review of Canada in April 2013. The focus of recommendations during the review were on the failure of the Canadian government to address systemic violence against indigenous women. During the adoption of the final report of the working group in September 2013, APC made an oral statement on internet rights in Canada, including surveillance of indigenous activitists critical of the government.
Colnodo and APC submitted a report for the review of Colombia in October 2012. The report was based in part on Colnodo’s 2011 GISWatch report on Colombia by Lilian Chamorro Rojas examining the Lleras Bill, which would place harsh restrictions on copyright infringement, in violation of the Article 19 of the ICCPR. In January 2012, the Constitutional Court of Colombia declare the Lleras Law unconstitutional.
In October 2011 APC submitted a report for the Universal Periodic Review of Ecuador in collaboration with CIESPAL and Radialistas Apasionadas y Apasionados. The report focuses on issues of access to the internet and highlights the critical importance of the internet for human rights, social and economic development.
Despite offers by the government to work with civil society in drafting communications legislation that respects human rights, Ecuador passed the Organic Communications Law in June 2013, which placed new limitations on anonymity and freedom of expression, and proposed dangerous new amendments to the new criminal code, which would violate Ecuadorians right to privacy by requiring internet intermediaries to store data on all of its users.
Privacy International, the Egyptian Intiative for Personal Rights, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, and APC submitted a report for the UPR of Egypt in early 2014. The report expresses concern over increasing communications surveillance in the country, as well as restrictions on anonymity, and the right to assemble.
In November 2014, at the 20th session of the UPR, Egypt received recommendations from more than 10 States, calling for the government of Egypt to repeal or amend Act No. 107/2013 on the Right to Public Meetings and Peaceful Assemblies, which is responsible for the ongoing detention of human rights defenders in the country.
Egypt also received advanced questions on the human rights situation in the country, including questions from Liechtenstein on the establishment of an independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance policies and practices.
A group of human rights organisations in Egypt decided not to participate in the review, for fear that their participation might result in reprisal or persecution. On 10 November, the government’s ultimatum for “non-registered entities” to register under Law 84/2002 expired. This repressive law gives power to the government to shut down any group, freeze its assets, confiscate its property, reject nominees to its governing board, block its funding, or deny requests to affiliate with international organisations.
Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF)‘s Internet Rights programme collaborated with APC in 2011 to develop a submission focused on the right to information and freedom of expression online. Recommendation relating to access to information and the internet were among those accepted by India.
During the review, India stated that the “removal of illegal contents including child pornography should not be construed as restricting Internet freedom as such restrictions were addressed towards cyber-security, essential with increasing e-commerce and internet use”. India has noted the recommendation by Sweden to “ensure that measures limiting freedom of expression on the internet is based on clearly defined criteria in accordance with international human rights standard”.
The second review of Iraq took place on November 3rd, 2014. Iraq civil society organizations working with APC developed a briefing document that highlights the severe, ongoing human rights violations in Iraq from a civil society perspective. The document proposes questions and recommendations that should be brought to the attention of the Iraqi government. A delegation of Iraqi civil society attended the review, holding meetings with State representatives at the UPR-Info Geneva pre-sessions, and with Members of the European Parliament in Brussels.
During the review, the Iraqi government delegation stated that the draft Jaafari law, which would have legalized marriage of girls as young as 9, had been withdrawn. The government committed to implement a national strategy against violence and recommendations by CEDAW.
Iraq also received a recommendation from Denmark to “[r]evise the existing legislation, in particular the ‘Protection of Journalists Law number 21’ with a view to remove all restrictions on the freedom of the press and to ensure full protection of journalists and other media-workers”.
Supported by APC, Metamorphosis submitted a stakeholder report in June 2013 on freedom of expression, freedom of information, privacy and hate speech.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, visited the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in June 2013 in order to assess the state of freedom of opinion and expression in the country. Mr. La Rue met with APC member Metamorphosis Foundation, who has been at the forefront of the fight for freedom of expression, privacy and security, and rights to information and access to all, in the country.
In March 2013, APC’s partner in Malaysia, EMPOWER developed a joint submission with a coalition of NGOs, COMANGO, which participated in the review of the country in October 2013. In early 2014, several groups issued statements inciting citizens in the country to take aggressive action against COMANGO. The coalition responded by issuing a statement deploring all forms of intimidation and violence, and welcoming engagement on issues raised by COMANGO in the March 2013 report.
At the adoption of the report in March 2014, COMANGO held a side event, made an oral statement and expressed their disappointment over weak promises on human rights by the Malaysian government.
Working with LaNeta and TakeBackTheTech! Mexico, APC developed a submission specifically focused on women’s rights, protection of WHRDs and violence against women. APC met with IR-supporting State representatives in September 2013 to ask that questions and recommendations be made on internet rights, but no recommendations were made during the review in October 2013.
In March 2012, working with a coalition of civil society, including APC member Fantsuam Foundation, and partner Paradigm Initative, APC submitted a stakeholder report on privacy, surveillance and access to technology for the review of Nigeria. APC met with IR-supporting State representatives in September 2013 to ask that questions and recommendations be made on internet rights, but no recommendations were made at the review in October 2013.
In March 2014, APC worked with partners and local civil society engaged in the UPR, to develop an oral statement for the adoption of Nigeria’s UPR report. The oral statement urged the government of Nigeria to reconsider policies and practices that are in clear violation of international human rights standards and commitments. Calling for national dialogue on internet intermediary liability and copyright law reform, the statement also expressed deep concern over the government’s decision to reject recommendations to protect the rights of all Nigerians, irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and religious affiliation. The statement was endorsed by CIVICUS, PEN Nigeria and Fantsuam Foundation.
APC is now supporting Paradigm Initiative, CIVICUS and PEN Nigeria to set up a follow-up meeting in Nigeria on implementation of recommendations from the UPR, to be held May 2014.
Bytes For All, Pakistan has engaged in the UPR process since 2012, with support from APC. After making the first joint submission on internet rights earlier that year with APC and Freedom House, Bytes For All, Pakistan participated in the review in October 2012. These efforts (together with in-country activities) resulted in specific questions being asked during the review by the Netherlands and one recommendation in relation to freedom of expression and the media.
Since 2012 B4A has taken cases to the Lahore Hight Court and run several successful campaigns, including ‘Access in my right’. In May 2014, following the order of the Lahore Court, Bytes For All joined a meeting convened by the Federal Minister of Information Technology to discuss lifting the Youtube ban.
In 2016, Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) presented a joint submission on human rights and Philippine Digital Environment to the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines for consideration at the 27th session of the Working Group to be held in May 2017. APC provided FMA, our member organisation in the Philippines, with input on human rights in relation to ICTs and the Internet, and specifically on the issue of ICT-related violence against women.
FMA observes the following areas of concern in relation to human rights and the Internet:
Freedom of Expression and online libel
Freedom of expression and sexual rights
Online gender-based violence
Online Child Sex Trafficking and Child Pornography
Right to privacy in digital environments
In October 2011, APC worked with a coalition of civil society groups to develop a submission which focused on freedom of expression, the right to information, freedom from censorship; freedom of the press; the right to privacy and the importance of affordable access to the internet. The coalition included the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), CIVICUS, Gender Links, Highway Africa Chair in Media and Information Society, IDASA, Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC), Right 2 Know, Southern African NGONetwork (SANGONet), Section27, and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI).
Following this initial submission, APC connected with the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), which led a coalition that was participating in other issues around the South Africa UPR. APC supported the engagement of HURISA in South Africa’s review at the Human Rights Council in May 2012. APC also reached out to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which was dealing with a number of high-profile cases of abusive speech online. The results of these efforts include the Commission’s public announcement in early 2013 of its successful facilitation of a complaint including a public apology and withdrawal of all hurtful racial statements posted on social media by a young journalist.
In 2016, CIVICUS and HURISA examined the Government of South Africa’s compliance with its international human rights obligations to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society. They analysed South Africa’s fulfillment of the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression and unwarranted restrictions on human rights defenders (HRDs) since its previous UPR examination. They expressed particular concern over the harassment of peaceful protestors and demonstrators by state security agents which impedes the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the failure to sufficiently amend or repeal restrictive legislation limiting freedom of information.
In September 2015 10 Sudanese civil society and human rights organisations in collaboration with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and our member, Alternatives International, submitted a stakeholder report to the second UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Sudan, scheduled to take place in Geneva in April 2016.
This coalition submission focuses on freedom of expression in Sudan, including media freedom, limitations on access to information, censorship, violations of human rights online, protection of journalists, and violence against women journalists. The submission also documents human rights violations in relation to constitutional amendments, the anti-terrorism act, and special courts; religious freedom; and freedom of association and assembly. The issues highlighted in this report represent only a fraction of the human rights violations experienced in Sudan.
The UPR-Info pre-session for Sudan took place in Geneva on 31 March, 2016. Four Sudanese human rights defenders were banned from travelling to Geneva for the pre-session. APC has joined a coalition of NGOs and individuals asking States to call on Sudan to “immediately cease arbitrary restrictions on independent civil society, and ensure that human rights defenders can work in a safe and enabling environment, including by making the necessary reforms to the National Security Act of 2010.”
In March 2015, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) submitted a joint stakeholder contribution to the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism for Uganda. The submission focuses on women’s rights and the internet in Uganda, and it explores the extent of implementation of the recommendations made in the previous cycle of the UPR and also identifies emerging concerns in Uganda regarding women’s rights online.
Read about our work at the Human Rights Council here.