UN Report Describes Internet Access as Human Right
Describing the internet as an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, Frank La rue presented a report to the UN outlining its significance.
According to La rue who was appointed as special Rapporteur and human rights watchdog by the UN Secretary General the internet is a basic human right.
He cites in his report submitted Friday, the impact of online collaboration in the Arab Spring and states, that facilitating access to the internet for all individuals, with as little restriction to online content as possible, should be a priority for all States.
The report supported the internet as a communication platform, and an asset to all democratic societies. It highlighted however its effectiveness in threatening power brokers in some countries using Egypt, Syria and Libya as examples where the power of the internet was a catalyst serving the oppressed people who turned to its speed, worldwide reach and relative anonymity to enable the historical revolutions.
He attributed the distinctive features of the Internet that enabled the individuals to disseminate information in record time and mobilized people which triggered fear amongst the most powerful governments. This fear prompted some governments to take action and cut the service. A court ruling against Egypt’s Ousted Mubarak in fact has fined him $90 million for cutting the service during the early days of the revolution.
La Rue also argues that this broad surveillance practiced by the powers endangers anonymity’s ability to protect dissenters and journalists alike when they speak out.
While he acknowledges that there must be restrictions, La rue voiced concern that the legitimate online expression is being criminalized in contravention of States’ international human rights obligations.
He claimed that while such laws are often justified as being necessary to protect reputations , national security and to counter terrorism they are frequently used to censor content that the Government powers and other powerful entities do not like or agree with.
He called on all nations to make plans to offer universal access and also maintain policy that will not limit access for political purposes concluding that the government’s bad track record of protecting this type of free expression is ideologically just as bad as shutting the internet down altogether.