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Biggest Threat to Internet Freedom is Fear. OSCE Dublin Conference Draws Conclusions

21 June 2012

Source: Open News Agency 

Photo: Open News Agency

Human rights apply to the Internet just as they do to everyday life, and to ensure they are protected effectively, key definitions need to be developed and recommendations given.

This is the conclusion arrived at by politicians, NGOs and bloggers at the OSCE Conference on Internet Freedom which took place on 18-19 June in Dublin, Damir Gainutdinov, a conference participant and lawyer with the Agora Human Rights Association reports.

Representatives from OSCE member states, civil society, bloggers and NGOs took part in the conference. UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue and the OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic also spoke. Among Russian official representatives present were Aleksandr Borisov, a professor at MGIMO and Russia’s representative on the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on New Media, and officials from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The main results of the Conference were five conclusions and five recommendations, which have been included in the final document. The experts came to the conclusion that "the biggest threat to Internet freedom is fear". Moreover, they stressed that "all the rights that are guaranteed and protected offline should be applied to the Internet", and "restrictions to the Internet should only be applied in exceptional circumstances". Experts also agreed that "building ‘walls’ on the Internet is unacceptable, it is a common space".

Recommendations of the OSCE Conference:

1) Taking into account the many parties interested in control of the Internet, cooperation is needed between governments, companies and private individuals.
2) The OSCE should collaborate with academic institutions.
3) Business should devote more attention to social aspects of the Internet.
4) Common definitions need to be developed and how exactly to apply norms ensuring general freedoms to the Internet needs to be determined.
5) The discussion needs to be extended to include issues of Internet freedom.

The Russian Federation tried to read out a statement but, according to Damir Gainutdinov, they were prevented from doing so and the text of the address was given to the Secretariat. Representatives of the latter, for their part, promised to include the address in the final materials of the Conference which will be circulated to everyone at a later date. Meanwhile, the official delegation of Russia attempted to raise the issue of a Code on Internet security, but this did not meet with the support of the conference participants, according to Damir Gainutdinov. In conclusion, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative said that Russia has always and will always support Internet freedom, but that Internet freedom should not threaten or undermine national security

The expert speaker from Front Line Defenders, Andrew Anderson, stressed that the sale of telecommunications equipment to authoritarian regimes which use them to spy on their own citizens needs to be restricted

In his speech, legal analyst with the Agora Association Damir Gainutdinov, who specialises in protecting freedom of the Internet in Russia, drew attention to the fact that the majority of Conference participants were saying: "The Internet does not give rise to new rights". This raises many questions, Damir Gainutdinov said, such as how exactly the rights there are should be used in this new environment and to what extent the main approaches on this issue should be determined at an international level. As a result, this issue was included in the Conference's final recommendations.