UN Declares That Internet Restrictions Violate Human Rights

A wide view of the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room. United Nations Photo/Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Far from just promoting and defending access to the Internet, the motion also highlights that there is “concern that many forms of digital divides remain between and within countries and between men and women, boys and girls,” and that far more needs to be done to close these gaps. It also stresses “the importance of empowering all women and girls by enhancing their access to information and communications technology” and “promoting digital literacy.”

This passage will sit well with Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani Nobel Prize laureate and activist for female education, who addressed the UN Youth Assembly in 2013 on her 16th birthday. During this landmark speech, she said: “The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. The power of the voice of women frightens them.” This is implicitly recognized in this new motion, and rightly so.

Malala speaks to the UN Youth Assembly in 2013. United Nations via YouTube

Article 19, a charity that defends the freedom of expression named after the related clause in the UDHR, has welcomed the motion. “From impunity for the killings of bloggers to laws criminalizing legitimate dissent on social media, basic human rights principles are being disregarded to impose greater controls over the information we see and share online,” Thomas Hughes, the charity’s executive director, said in a statement. “The resolution is a much-needed response to increased pressure on freedom of expression online in all parts of the world.”

Main image: United Nations via Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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