The Internet is the most disruptive communication technology of our time, revolutionising the free flow of information between individuals by offering anyone with an Internet connection the ability to gather and share information and ideas. Yet the technologies that make this possible can also be used to limit access to information through content blocking and full-scale Internet shutdowns, or stifle expression through surveillance on a scale previously unimaginable.
In recent years, States have adopted myriad laws to regulate content online, increasingly putting pressure on private actors to censor content which they deem illegal or simply “harmful.” Much of the world’s online content is now regulated by the community standards and algorithms of a handful of Internet companies, whose operations and processes lack transparency. Internet users’ right to free expression is easily subject to abuse in this regulatory environment, the complexity of which is compounded by the fact that the Internet is a public space built on decentralized private infrastructure. Though often described as neutral or apolitical, standard-setting bodies and infrastructure providers wield great influence by determining what is or is not possible on the Internet.
The open flow of information has been key to the Internet’s transformative effect in modern society. In order to safeguard its benefits, the right to free expression must be defended when addressing issues of content and defining the technical management of the Internet’s architecture.
The role of the media in any society is to investigate and share information and ideas, in particular on issues of public interest, so that the public is informed and able to play their part in political, economic and cultural life. International law therefore requires States not only to refrain from controlling or restricting the media, but also to create an enabling legal and regulatory environment that allows the development of a free and diverse media landscape.
Media around the world has fundamentally changed in recent years. Although broadcast radio and television remain important sources of information and ideas, the Internet, and particularly social media platforms, have taken a position of ever growing importance as content distribution platforms, both for traditional media companies as well as emerging digital media companies. These new actors have quickly risen to dominant positions.
Search engines and social media platforms now hold a decisive influence over the searchability, visibility or accessibility of media and other content.
The defence of media freedom requires us to protect against not only traditional forms of media restrictions, (such as the forced closure of newspapers, or the use of public advertising to control media content) but also against unprecedented new challenges, such as the control of information and ideas by private power-holders, or the difficulties of financing and promoting accurate and reliable information online.
Access to information
The right to information (RTI) enables the public and civil society to access information held by public bodies, and empowers them to hold their leaders accountable, develop a fuller understanding of the world, and ensure other human rights. The right to information is an important tool for holding governments to account, as it requires them to be more transparent in their activities, for example in the way they spend public finances. This not only helps fight corruption, but it helps build stable and resilient democracies, where the powerful are genuinely accountable. The protection of whistleblowers to be able to reveal information of public interest is also crucially important.
Over the past 15 years, global progress on access to information, both in law and practice, has been significant. Nearly 120 countries around the world have adopted comprehensive RTI laws, encompassing nearly 90 percent of the world’s population. These laws have been extensively used to enable people to achieve their social and economic, as well as their human rights. However, there remains a long way to go to instill genuine transparency and protect the right to information for all.
- All Business and human rights
- Equaliy and Hate Speech
- Freedom of Religion or Belief
- Gender and Sexuality
- National Security And Counter Terrorism
- Participation and Association
- Privacy and Suveillance
- Safety of Journalist and Human Right Defenders
- Sustainable Development
ADDRESS: Centre Galaxie 2000, tour C, 5ème étage, bureau 3, Lafayette, Tunis.، Tunis 1002, Tunisia