UN expert warns of rising governmental restrictions on Internet information flows

3 June 2011

An independent United Nations expert on freedom of expression today warned that governments are increasingly restricting the flow of information on the Internet due to its potential to mobilize people to challenge the status quo.

Frank La Rue, a Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today: “Governments are using increasingly sophisticated technologies to block content, and to monitor and identify activists and critics.”

“In recent months, we have seen a growing movement of people around the world who are advocating for change – for justice, equality, accountability of the powerful and better respect for human rights,” Mr. La Rue said.

“However, the unique features of the Internet, which allow individuals to spread information instantly, to organize themselves, and to inform the world about situations of injustice and inequality, have also created fear among governments and the powerful.”

He noted that “legitimate expression continues to be criminalized in many States, illustrated by the fact that in 2010, more than 100 bloggers were imprisoned.”

Mr. La Rue concluded: “There should be as little restriction as possible to the flow of information via the Internet, except in a few, very exceptional, and limited circumstances prescribed by international human rights law.”

Mr. La Rue, who has served as Special Rapporteur since August 2008, reports to the Human Rights Council.

 

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