All Posts in Internet Governance

December 9, 2013 - Comments Off on DRF Research Report: Net Privacy in South Asia

DRF Research Report: Net Privacy in South Asia

In May 2013, 29 year old Edward Snowden, former CIA employee and technical contractor to the NSA, disclosed thousands of top-secret documents to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers. These documents carried sensitive information about United States’ Internet surveillance programs such as PRISM, XKeyscore, Tempora, along with details of the interception of U.S. and European telephone metadata. In the U.S. political history, it is perhaps the most significant political leak since Daniel Ellsberg’s “Pentagon Papers” in 1971.

Pakistan – digital dictatorship in the guise of a democracy:

Not surprisingly during the same month, here in Pakistan, the government was found to be using FinFisher – one of the most sophisticated surveillance software suite available in the commercial market. The data shown in Citizen Lab’s analysis “For the eyes only” reported that Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL) owns the network where FinFisher server was found in the country. Gamma International UK’s FinFisher suite is an IT intrusion and remote monitoring system whose principal market is state-operated surveillance. Read more

November 13, 2013 - Comments Off on Summary of Cyber Security Awareness Seminar, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

Summary of Cyber Security Awareness Seminar, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

The second Cyber Security Awareness Seminar was held at LUMS in collaboration with the Cyber Security Task Force and the Pakistan Information Security Association (PISA) on November 5th, 2013. The primary goal of this seminar was to highlight the increasing threats of Cyber Crimes and Cyber Terrorism.

The seminar saw the participation of LUMS students and faculty members; civil judges and research fellows at the Lahore High Court; the Additional Advocate General; various members of the business community and civil society representatives including Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan.

The session was inaugurated with an introduction by Mr Ammar Jaffri, the Chairman Cyber Security Task Force. He went on to describe the audience about the threat perception in cyber space and mentioned about the counter measures taken up by the Cyber Security Task Force.

Following Mr. Jaffri was Barrister Zahid Jameel, Head of the Legal Committee for Drafting the Cyber Security Bill 2013. He discussed legal issues and challenges faced with regards to cyber security and the impediments faced by him and his committee while introducing the Cyber Security Bill 2013.

Dr Ashraf Masood, Dean NUST MCS, briefly explained about the cyber security policy adopted in Pakistan. He was then followed up by Mr. Shahid Hassan, Deputy Director of the FIA, who narrated his experience of the special cyber security training he had received in India.

The session was continued by Mr. Tariq Sheikh, Manager Customer Support and Training at LUMS, who brought forth the challenges and issues faced at LUMS in terms of cyber security. Seminar was concluded by a session from Mr. Tahir Chaudhry, Head Cyber Security Awareness Campaign who brought forth cyber issues faced by students and the general public. He provided some valuable tips on how to secure personal information online.

Finally, a summation followed all these presentations with closing remarks given by Professor Abid Hussain Imam, Assistant Professor at Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law, who then opened the Q & A session.

Session summary by Muhammad Farooq - volunteer, Digital Rights Foundation

November 4, 2013 - Comments Off on انٹرنیٹ گورننس فورم ٢٠١٣ میں شریک سول سوسائٹی مندوبین کا مشترکہ اعلامیہ

انٹرنیٹ گورننس فورم ٢٠١٣ میں شریک سول سوسائٹی مندوبین کا مشترکہ اعلامیہ

فریڈم ہاؤس کی سربراہی میں  آۓ ہوۓ سول سول سوسائٹی کے معزز اراکین اور آن لائن حقوق  کے لیے کام کرنے والے اراکین نے  بالی، انڈونیشیا میں منعقدہ اقوام متحدہ کی سرپرستی میں ہونے والی آٹھویں انٹرنیٹ گورننس فورم میں گلوبل انٹرنیٹ پالیسی کے عنوان سے ہونے والے مباحثہ میں شرکت کی .  اگف  کے اختتام پر ١٧ اداروں ور افراد نے ایک مشترکہ اعلامیہ پر دستخط کئے جسکا مقصد فورم  کے دوران اٹھاےَ جانے والے خدشات و تحفظات پر روشنی ڈالنا اور حکومتوں، انٹرنیٹ کمپنیوں اور بین الاقوامی اداروں کو انٹرنیٹ کی آزادی کو یقینی بنانے کے حوالے سے سفارشات پیش کرنے کی  تجاویز پیش کرنا تھا

یہ اعلامیہ  فورم کے آخری دن بوزیں زید نے پیش کیا .زیر دستخطی پوری دنیا میں موجود سول سوسائٹی رہنماؤں کا نمائندہ گروپ ہے جس نے انٹرنیٹ گورننس فورم ٢٠١٣ جو ٢٢ اکتوبر سے ٢٥ اکتوبر تک بالی، انڈونیشیا میں منققد ہوئی میں فریڈم ہاؤس کے وفد کی حیثیت سے شرکت کی . ہم میٹنگ کے اختتام پر  اس اعلامیہ میں ان تمام آرا کو نمایاں کررہے ہیں جو فورم کے دوران پیش کی گئیں
 

اگف کے شرکا کی بڑی تعداد کے مطابق انٹرنیٹ کے نظم و ضبط کا عمل بہتر بنایا جا سکتا ہے اور بنایا جانا چاہئے لیکن اس کے ساتھ اس بات پر بھی زور دیا گیا کہ انٹرنیٹ کو ہمیشہ قابل رسائی، عالمی ,محفوظ اور مضبوط بنانے کے لئے بھی اقدامات کئے جانے چاہئے  انسانی حقوق کو آن لائن فروغ دینے ، انکی حفاظت کرنے کے لئے ہمارے گروپ نے ضروری اصول اور تجاویز پیش کیں جیسا کہ

١- تمام قوانین، پولیسیاں، قواعد، معاہدہ صارف، انٹرنیٹ پر نظم و ضبط کی عمل داری کے لیے کے جانے والے تمام اقدامات، انسانی حقوق کے بین الاقوامی معیار کے مطابق ہونے چاہئے جس میں اقوام متحدّہ کے انسانی حقوق کے منشور کی شق ١٩ جس میں آزادی اظہار رائے کا حق، شق ١٢ جس میں رازداری کا حق اور شق ٢٠ جس میں اپنی مرضی سے کسی سے الحاق کا حق شامل ہیں.
حکومتوں اور دوسرے حصّہ داروں کو انسانی حقوق کونسل کی قرار داد ٢٠/٨ جولائی ٢٠١٢ میں کثرت رائے سے منظور کی گئی کو مد نظر رکھنا چاہیے جس میں کہا گیا ہے کہ "وہ تمام حقوق جو انسانوں کو آف لائن میسّر ہیں وہ آن لائن بھی میسّر ہونے چاہئے، بنیادی طور پر یہ حق آزادی رائے ہے " اور مزید یہ کہ "انٹرنیٹ ترقی اور انسانی حقوق پر عمل داری کے لیے استمال کیا جانے والا ایک اھم آلہ ثابت ہوسکتا ہے "  اس قرارداد کا اطلاق حکومتوں کی طرف سے کی جانے والی ناجائز اور غیر قانونی آن لائن جاسوسی کو ختم کرنے کے لئے ہوسکتا ہے. کسی بھی جاسوسی کو قانونی اور جائز اسی وقت کہا جا سکتا ہے جب وہ محدود و مخصوص، ہدف پر اور مجرمانہ سرگرمیوں کی روک تھام اور تحقیق کے لیے کی جائے اور آزاد عدلیہ کی نگرانی میں ہو.
٢-انٹرنیٹ کے نظم و ضبط سے متعلق مسائل ہر جگہ یکساں طور پر بحث کئے جائیں، ان میں وہ تمام جگہیں بھی شامل ہیں جو علاقائی، ذیلی علاقائی، قومی، لسانی یا دوسری جماعتوں (گروپس) میں بٹے ہوئے ہیں- یہ بات بہت اھم ہے کہ تمام جگہوں پر شفّافیت ، کشادگی، اور جامعیت کے اصولوں کو برقرار رکھا جائے، یہاں تمام شراکت داروں کو شامل کرنے کا مقصد انٹرنیٹ کو اثر انداز کرنے والی پولیسیوں، اصولوں اور معیار کو ترتیب دیتے وقت ہر طرح کی آرا اور نقطہ نظر کی اہمیت کو اجاگر کرنا ہے، ملٹی سٹیک ہولڈرازم ایک بہت زیادہ استمال کی جانے والی اصطلاح ہے جو کہ واقعات ، گروپس اور طریقہ کار کی بہت بڑی تعداد پر لاگو ہوتی ہے- بین الاقوامی اداروں کے ساتھ ساتھ قومی اداروں کو بھی شراکتداری(ملٹی سٹیک ہولڈرازم ) کو اپنی سب سے پہلی ترجیح بنانے  کے لیے تمام ذمّہ داران کو برابری کی بنیادوں پر مزاکرات کی میز پر لانے کے لئے سنجیدہ کوششیں کرنی ہونگی.
٣- انٹرنیٹ کے نظم و ضبط سے متعلق مباحثہ میں اگلا سب سے اھم قدم شفّافیت اور احتساب ہے جسے تمام ذمّہ داران کو نافذ کرنے کی ضرورت ہے کاروباری حلقے ٹرانسپرںسی رپورٹ کی اہمیت کو سمجھنے لگے ہیں جو کہ نہ صرف ان کے صارفین اور ان کی سماجی ذمّہ داریوں کے لیے ضروری ہیں بلکہ ان کے معاشی فوائد بھی ہیں- حکومتیں اس بات کو یقینی بنائیں کہ انکی تمام پولیسیاں اور طریقہ کار شفّاف ہوں جو نہ صرف ان کے اپنے شہریوں کی نظر میں بلکہ بین الاقوامی سطح پر بھی انکی قانونی حیثیت، ساکھ اور اخلاقی حاکمیت کو برقرار رکھنے کا زریعہ ہیں . مواد کی سنسر شپ، نگرانی، نیٹ ورک کی بندش یا نیٹ ورک کو سست رفتار کرنا اور انٹرنیٹ کی نگرانی کے دوسرے طریقوں کو استمال کرنے کے موقعوں پر ان دو ذمّہ داران کو آزادانہ طور پر اور ساتھ مل کر ان اقدامت کی تفصیلات ظاہر کرنا ور انہیں عوامی سطح پربحث کرنا ہوگا، اس کے علاوہ حکومتیں ان تمام ممالک جو انسانی حقوق کی پاسداری کرنے میں ناکام رہے کو نگرانی و فلٹرنگ ٹیکنالوجیز کی برآمد پر سختی سے قابو پائیں. ساتھ ساتھ نجی شعبہ کو بھی اس دائرہ اختیار میں اپنے طرز عمل پر غور کرنا چاہیے- کچھ ممالک میں  ایسے بلوگرز، سماجی کارکنوں اور دیگر انٹرنیٹ صارفین پر تشدّد ، قید اور یہاں تک کہ قتل کرنے   کے واقعات رونما ہوئے جنہوں نے حکّام کے خلاف تنقیدی معلومات پوسٹ کیں.
ہم انڈونیشیا کی حکومت کا انکی مہمان نوازی اور آٹھویں بین الاقوامی اگف میٹنگ کامیابی سے منعقد کروانے پر شکریہ ادا کرتے ہیں. بالی میں یہ ایونٹ منعقد کروانے سے متعلق ابہام کے باوجود ہم لوگ١٨ ممالک سے سول  سوسائٹی رہنماؤں، سماجی کارکنوں اور ماہرین تعلیم  کو مدعو کرنے میں کامیاب رہے. ہمارے ٣ ساتھی ویزا کے مسائل ہونے کی وجہ سے نہیں آسکے-اگف کے مخصوص رجسٹرڈ شرکا کو جاری کردہ اجازت نامہ جس کی رو سے انہیں انڈونیشیا آمد پر ویزا جاری کیا جانا تھا دیر سے موصول ہوا جسے ایئر لائن حکّام نے منسوخ کردیا اور وہ کسی بھی ملک کے شرکا کو نہیں مل سکا، مستقبل میں ہونے والی اگف کے لیئے بہتر ہوگا کہ انڈونیشیا آمد پر ویزا ملنے کے عمل کو بہتر بنایا جائے اور متعلقہ محکموں کو باضابطہ طور پر مطلع کیا جائے.
:دستخط
- Freedom House
- The Unwanted Witness, Uganda
- Jorge Luis Sierra, México
- Damir Gainutdinov, Russian Federation, AGORA Association
- Nighat Dad, Pakistan, Digital Rights Foundation
- Artem Goriainov, Kyrgyzstan, Public Foundation “Civil Initiative on Internet Policy”
- Giang Dang, Vietnam
- Fatima Cambronero, Argentina, AGEIA DENSI Argentina
- Michelle Fong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong In-Media
- Dalia Haj-Omar, Sudan, GIRIFNA
- Bouziane Zaid, Morocco
- Syahredzan Johan, Malaysia
- Juned Sonido, Philippines
- Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO)
- Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
- Mahmood Enayat, United Kingdom, Small Media
- Abeer Alnajjar, Jordan
- Arzu Geybullayeva, Azerbaijan
*Thanks to Sobia Ghazal for translating this press release

October 26, 2013 - Comments Off on Joint Statement of Civil Society Delegates to the 2013 Internet Governance Forum

Joint Statement of Civil Society Delegates to the 2013 Internet Governance Forum

October 25, 2013

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Freedom House led a delegation of civil society leaders and online activists from around the world to Bali, Indonesia for the 8th Internet Governance Forum (IGF), the UN's flagship conference for discussing global Internet policy. Following the IGF, 17 organizations and individuals signed on to a joint statement to highlight the concerns they raised throughout the Forum, and to offer recommendations to governments, internet companies, and international organizations on how to better protect internet freedoms. This statement was delivered to the Forum during the Open Mic session on the final day by Bouziane Zaid.

We, the undersigned representatives of a group of civil society leaders worldwide who attended and participated in the 2013 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on October 22-25 in Bali, Indonesia as part of the Freedom House delegation, make this statement at the meeting’s conclusion to highlight a number of opinions we expressed and concerns we raised throughout the Forum.

The 2013 IGF provided a valuable space for the members of our group to engage with other stakeholder groups, through the Forum’s sessions and also through side meetings and consultations with representatives of governments, businesses, the technical community, multilateral bodies, and civil society organizations from all over the world. We urge all stakeholders to continue to engage and participate in future IGFs, to strengthen the Forum’s multistakeholder process, and to uphold the principles of openness, transparency, and inclusiveness. Without the IGF, there is no comparable venue for civil society to directly raise its perspective and concerns with leaders in the government, the private sector, and the technical community.

We share the sentiment with the vast majority of IGF participants that the Internet governance process can and should be improved, but stress the importance of upholding and strengthening the multistakeholder approach to ensure that the internet remains open, global, secure and resilient. In calling for more efforts to promote, protect, and advocate for human rights online, our group has underscored broad principles and recommendations, such as:

1. All laws, policies, regulations, terms of service, user agreements, and other measures to govern the internet must adhere to international standards of human rights, including but not limited to Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression; Article 12, guaranteeing the right to privacy; and Article 20, guaranteeing the right to free association. As an important step, states and other stakeholders must look to Human Rights Council Resolution 20/8 – adopted by consensus in July 2012 – affirming “that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression,” and pledging to explore further “how the Internet can be an important tool for development and for exercising human rights.” This applies to ending illicit online surveillance by any government. To be legitimate and lawful, any surveillance must be limited, targeted, used to deter or investigate criminalized activity, and subject to independent judicial oversight.

2. Consistency across the many spaces for discussion around Internet governance issues – including those spaces clustered around regional, sub-regional, national, linguistic, and other groupings – is crucial to ensure the principles of openness, transparency, and inclusiveness are upheld in all venues. This is not multistakeholderism for multistakeholderism’s sake, but rather recognizing the need to represent all voices, perspectives and interests in setting standards, norms, and policies that affect the internet, both locally and globally. The term multistakeholder is overused and applied to a wide range of events, groups and processes. Various international organizations, as well as national governments, must make it a top priority to replace lipservice to multistakeholderism with genuine efforts to bring all stakeholders to the table on equal footing.

3. Transparency and accountability are crucial next steps in the internet governance discussion, and need to be fully implemented by all stakeholder groups. Businesses are beginning to recognize transparency reports as serving their users and their corporate social responsibilities, as well as their bottom-line interests. Governments likewise should ensure that their policies and practices are fully transparent as a means of preserving their legitimacy, credibility, and moral authority with their own citizens and the international community. In instances of content censorship, surveillance, shutting down or deliberate slowing down of networks, and other methods of internet control, these two stakeholder groups must work independently and together to divulge details about these measures and have them open to public debate. In addition, governments should institute strict controls on the export of surveillance and filtering technologies to regimes that have failed to demonstrate a commitment to upholding human rights, while the private sector should take a close look at some of their own practices in this domain. In some countries, bloggers, activists, and other internet users are subject to beatings, imprisonment, and even murder when they post information critical of the authorities.

We thank the government of Indonesia for its warm hospitality and dedicated efforts in successfully hosting the 8th annual meeting of the Global IGF. Despite the confusion during the summer over whether the event would be held in Bali, we were able to convene our delegation of civil society advocates, activists and academics from more than 18 countries. However, three of our colleagues had to cancel their attendance owing to visa issues. The letter granting certain registered participants permission to obtain visas upon arrival in Indonesia came too late, was rejected by airline officials, and was not extended to participants from all countries. For future IGFs, it would be preferable to announce the visa on arrival special procedure well in advance and officially notify the appropriate channels.

Thank you.

Signatories:

- Freedom House
- The Unwanted Witness, Uganda
- Jorge Luis Sierra, México
- Damir Gainutdinov, Russian Federation, AGORA Association
- Nighat Dad, Pakistan, Digital Rights Foundation
- Artem Goriainov, Kyrgyzstan, Public Foundation “Civil Initiative on Internet Policy”
- Giang Dang, Vietnam
- Fatima Cambronero, Argentina, AGEIA DENSI Argentina
- Michelle Fong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong In-Media
- Dalia Haj-Omar, Sudan, GIRIFNA
- Bouziane Zaid, Morocco
- Syahredzan Johan, Malaysia
- Juned Sonido, Philippines
- Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO)
- Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
- Mahmood Enayat, United Kingdom, Small Media
- Abeer Alnajjar, Jordan
- Arzu Geybullayeva, Azerbaijan

August 2, 2013 - Comments Off on More than a hundred global groups make a principled stand against surveillance

More than a hundred global groups make a principled stand against surveillance

For some time now there has been a need to update understandings of existing human rights law to reflect modern surveillance technologies and techniques. Nothing could demonstrate the urgency of this situation more than the recent revelations confirming the mass surveillance of innocent individuals around the world.

To move toward that goal, today we’re pleased to announce the formal launch of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. The principles articulate what international human rights law – which binds every country across the globe – require of governments in the digital age. They speak to a growing global consensus that modern surveillance has gone too far and needs to be restrained. They also give benchmarks that people around the world can use to evaluate and push for changes in their own legal systems.

The product of over a year of consultation among civil society, privacy and technology experts (read here, here, here and here), the principles have already been co-signed by over hundred organisations from around the world. The process was led by Privacy International, Access, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The release of the principles comes on the heels of a landmark report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, which details the widespread use of state surveillance of communications, stating that such surveillance severely undermines citizens’ ability to enjoy a private life, freely express themselves and enjoy their other fundamental human rights. And recently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nivay Pillay, emphasised the importance of applying human right standards and democratic safeguards to surveillance and law enforcement activities.

“While concerns about national security and criminal activity may justify the exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance programmes, surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risk impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Pillay said.

The principles, summarised below, can be found in full at necessaryandproportionate.org. Over the next year and beyond, groups around the world will be using them to advocate for changes in how present laws are interpreted and how new laws are crafted. We encourage privacy advocates, rights organisations, scholars from legal and academic communities, and other members of civil society to support the principles by adding their signature.

To sign, please send an email to rights@eff.org, or visit https://www.necessaryandproportionate.org/about

Summary of the 13 principles:

Legality: Any limitation on the right to privacy must be prescribed by law.

Legitimate Aim: Laws should only permit communications surveillance by specified State authorities to achieve a legitimate aim that corresponds to a predominantly important legal interest that is necessary in a democratic society.

Necessity: Laws permitting communications surveillance by the State must limit surveillance to that which is strictly and emonstrably necessary to achieve a legitimate aim.

Adequacy: Any instance of communications surveillance authorised by law must be appropriate to fulfill the specific legitimate aim identified.

Proportionality: Decisions about communications surveillance must be made by weighing the benefit sought to be achieved against the harm that would be caused to users’ rights and to other competing interests.

Competent judicial authority: Determinations related to communications surveillance must be made by a competent judicial authority that is impartial and independent.

Due process: States must respect and guarantee individuals' human rights by ensuring that lawful procedures that govern any interference with human rights are properly enumerated in law, consistently practiced, and available to the general public.

User notification: Individuals should be notified of a decision authorising communications surveillance with enough time and information to enable them to appeal the decision, and should have access to the materials presented in support of the application for authorisation.

Transparency: States should be transparent about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers.

Public oversight: States should establish independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance.

Integrity of communications and systems: States should not compel service providers, or hardware or software vendors to build surveillance or monitoring capabilities into their systems, or to collect or retain information.

Safeguards for international cooperation: Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) entered into by States should ensure that, where the laws of more than one State could apply to communications surveillance, the available standard with the higher level of protection for users should apply.

Safeguards against illegitimate access: States should enact legislation criminalising illegal communications surveillance by public and private actors.

February 2, 2013 - Comments Off on DRF Joins Hands with Punjab Government and 16 Civil Society Organisations to Enact Right to Information Law

DRF Joins Hands with Punjab Government and 16 Civil Society Organisations to Enact Right to Information Law

Coalition for Right to Information (CRTI) is working towards the enactment of said law in Pakistan following the international best practises of right to information legislations and implementation of existing information laws.

Punjab province despite being the biggest in Pakistan lacks any proper laws to provide easy access of information to its citizens. Though the tenure of current provincial government is coming to an end but during the previous four years the provincial govenment could only manage to present a draft bill on right to information laws.

Digital Rights Foundation has also joined hands with CRTI in an attempt to put forward specific recommendations aimed at improving the draft bill prepared by Punjab Government. The participants of the conference held at Lahore on January 30th, 2013 unanimously passed ‘CRTI Lahore Declaration’ urging Punjab government to enact law on right to information on priority basis.

The coalition has recommended that the law cannot be restricted only to "citizens of Punjab", as is suggested in the draft bill. Right to Information is a fundamental right of every Pakistani national and should be implemented all over the country rather than one province. CRTI also welcomes the establishment of Punjab Information Commission to have a strong, focused and effective commission to achieve the objectives.

Being a democratic country, citizens of Pakistan have all the right to know how government uses the powers and resources at its disposal. CRTI strongly opposed any exclusion of documents and information relating to internal working from the public sphere which is clearly an unreasonable restriction and is, therefore, in contravention of Article 19-A of the Constituion. Doing so would negate peoples’ right in this regard and, hence, will undermine their ability to oversee and make suggestions for increasing efficiency or improving performance.

The press release can be accessed here.

 

November 22, 2012 - Comments Off on Azerbaijan after the Internet Governance Forum, and before Elections

Azerbaijan after the Internet Governance Forum, and before Elections

At least eight journalists and three human rights defenders are serving their terms in the prisons of Azerbaijan, according to a recent Human Rights Watch briefing. That should tell you a lot about the country’s crucially limited freedom of expression.

This year Azerbaijan hosted the annual UN–sponsored Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which brings together governments, civil society, and others to discuss public policy issues related to the internet. The theme for 2012 was the role of internet governance in promoting development.

As a panelist in a couple of sessions during the event, I had a great opportunity to engage with the audience and with highly active human rights defenders. My panel, “Freedom of Expression Online: Key Challenges and Best Practices,” assembled stakeholders from academia, civil society, and governments to discern the most serious obstacles to freedom of expression (FoE) globally, and also to review the best practices that have emerged from legislative and activist engagement over the past year—and as outlined in Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report.

Bloggers, activists, civil society, businesses, governments, and policymakers from around the globe were invited to the forum, creating conditions for exuberant discussion. But the most striking feature of this event was the host country’s severe hostility to freedom of expression on the internet. Azerbaijan is a signatory to many international human rights treaties, but instead of respecting and protecting those rights, the government uses the laws to silence and repress dissent. This hypocrisy came into stark relief when President Ilham Aliyev chose to visit the Bakutel Telecommunication Exhibition—which was being held at the same venue—and be photographed with glossy satellites and machines, totally ignoring the IGF event and sending a clear anti-FoE message.

The country’s political powers were quite blunt even during this high-level event: EU officers’ machines were hacked inside their hotel rooms after European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes adopted a tough stance against the Azerbaijani government’s FoE policies. In addition, speeches were disturbed by audio and other logistical problems, and we often felt as though these were not so much managerial issues as an effort to intimidate the attendees and distract their thoughts from more critical matters. One of the most disturbing violations of free speech occurred when UN officials warned local groups and Freedom House against distributing reportsabout the freedom of expression situation in Azerbaijan both on and offline, because they constituted an “attack” on the host government.

A local nongovernmental organization called the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) produced an in-depth report highlighting its concerns for freedom of expression and violations of that right in Azerbaijan. One of the most significant violations has been violent attacks against journalists and media workers, and impunity for the attackers. In 2005, Elmar Huseynov, a symbol of courage for investigative journalists in Azerbaijan, was gunned down after receiving a number of death threats. In 2008, journalist Agil Khalil was assaulted multiple times after he attempted to report on alleged land-grabbing schemes in Baku. He was then permitted to leave Azerbaijan for his own safety, and instead of investigating his attackers, authorities pinned the crime on a man claiming to be Khalil’s homosexual lover. In 2011, journalist Ramin Deko was abducted and questioned about his online activities and his criticism of the president. After he disclosed this to the media, he was attacked again and severely beaten “as a reprisal.”

There have been more than 200 attacks on journalists since Huseynov’s murder, and the authorities never could figure out who was responsible, though they did not try very hard.

    A protester is arrested by local police in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Photo Credit | Mehman Huseynov

Another critical issue is the way the Azerbaijani government curtails freedom of expression through different restrictive laws. Defamation is a criminal offense and is used to constrain independent and opposition papers. Lawsuits are frequently filed against highly critical newspapers like AzadliqYeni Musavat, and Khural by members of parliament and government officials, and the cases have dire consequences for the outlets’ finances. Charges of hooliganism, drug possession, inciting hatred, and supporting terrorism are also used against outspoken journalists and activists to make them examples for others.

This year, Azerbaijan hosted two major international events: the Eurovision song contest and the seventh annual IGF. In the wake of international access to the country, authorities have already started detaining and persecuting critical individuals. Nine journalists, including Nijat Aliyev (editor-in-chief of AzadXeber.com) and Faramaz Novruzoglu (a freelance journalist who was accused of mass disorder after he used social media to criticize the government and call for protests), are currently in detention or in prison.

Khadija Ismayilova, a journalist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who actively participated in the IGF, was targeted with a sex video of her that was filmed secretly and posted on the internet. She is a very well-known and outspoken journalist who has in the past exposed official corruption.

With the increase in internet use globally and locally, technological advancement has made it easier for people to voice their opinions in cyberspace, and that is where the government has also started taking measures—such as content blocking and data filtering—to restrict access to information.

This becomes even more serious when authorities target individuals who voice critical opinions on the internet. Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade served 17 months in prison on charges of hooliganism after they posted a satirical video on YouTube that criticized the government for importing donkeys from Germany. I interviewed Emin during the IGF. He rejected the president’s mantra that the internet is free in Azerbaijan. He said that, yes, we can go on the internet and use whatever we want; yes, we are free up to that point. But when we criticize the president or the government, our freedom ends there.

At present, five bloggers and activists remain in detention in connection with the expression of opinions online. As the presidential election is only a year away, opposition, antigovernment, and other critical online spaces are being censored and blocked. Statements by top government officials also suggest that new legal mechanisms for internet control might be forthcoming, which is worrisome given the fact that the print and broadcast media have already been hit hard by this autocratic government.

As we move on from discussing what happened at the IGF, we shouldn’t leave the dissidents of the host country alone in these dreadfully autocratic conditions. International media, communities, and organizations should force the government to comply with international human rights treaties and respect the basic rights of its own citizens.

 

Originally published at Freedom House

November 15, 2012 - Comments Off on Seeking a More Free Internet through Multi-­Stakeholder Dialogue

Seeking a More Free Internet through Multi-­Stakeholder Dialogue


Download a copy of the joint statement

Joint Statement of Civil Society Delegates to the 2012 Internet Governance Forum

We, the undersigned representatives of civil society who attended and participated in the 2012 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on 6-9 November 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan, make this statement upon the conclusion of the meeting to highlight the opinions we expressed and concerns we raised throughout the Forum. We engaged in this meeting with the objective of advocating for internet freedoms, including the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, and the rights to seek, receive, and impart information, as protected by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our participation at the IGF was enabled by the unique multi-stakeholder model of the IGF, which gives civil society an equal voice alongside the government, business, and the technical communities. We believe this model creates more robust dialogue and more meaningful debate on the many issues involved in internet governance, including internet freedom, and we strongly support the continuation of the IGF and reject any proposals that would exclude civil society from its currently active role in determining the future of the internet.

In recent months and years, documents such as Freedom on the Net, published by Freedom House, and the 2011 report on internet freedom published by Frank LaRue, United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, have documented growing threats to internet freedom around the world.  In 2012, UN Human Rights Council Resolution L13 affirmed that all human rights should apply online just as they apply offline, and other internet freedoms were asserted in the 2011 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet, signed by representatives of the Organization for American States (OAS), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

We also note that next month, in Dubai, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will hold a major meeting that could fundamentally alter the structure and global reach of the internet. At the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), which is open only to member states, their delegations, and some corporations able to pay for access, governments have put forward proposals that could expand the authority of the ITU over the internet in ways that would threaten internet openness and innovation, increase the costs of access and connection, and erode human rights.

Motivated by these concerns, we make the following recommendations to the Internet Governance Forum and the stakeholders represented in Baku this year:

To Governments

  • We call upon all governments to work toward universal access to the internet, regardless of barriers related to ethnicity, religion, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or language.
  • We call upon governments not to block websites in any but the most limited and exceptional cases, and only when provided by a just law, pursuant to the purposes laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and implemented according to due process by an independent judicial body in the least restrictive way required to achieve the purported aim. Further, we call upon governments to respect the right of their citizens to appeal in a just court of law the blocking or censorship of websites.
  • We implore governments never hold intermediaries liable for content they host or transmit.
  • We urge governments not to systematically collect private data on citizens, and to ensure that any surveillance conducted to pursue criminal elements should be limited, exceptional, and subject to the approval of an independent judiciary.
  • We call upon all states to investigate and work to prevent physical and online attacks against citizens who express their opinions online, and to hold the responsible parties to account.
  • We urge all states to ensure that individuals can speak anonymously on the internet.
  • We implore all governments to control the export of technologies that could be used to monitor or surveil, and to restrict the export of those technologies to regimes that have failed to demonstrate a commitment to upholding human rights.
  • We strongly urge all governments to cease campaigns designed to deliberately misinform citizens or discredit and dilute independent voices.
  • We encourage all governments to include civil society in their delegations to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in December, 2012.

To Internet Companies

  • We urge ICT companies to join the Global Network Initiative, and abide by its code of conduct.
  • We call upon internet intermediaries not to limit rights to free expression and access to information except after legitimate judicial intervention, and to publicize all government requests to remove content or block services.   We urge all ICT companies with access to the personal information of users to fully respect the privacy of those individuals, retaining as little of that information as possible and preventing the exposure of that data to third parties.

To International & Multilateral Bodies

  • We call upon international and multi-lateral institutions to adopt internet freedom as a core value, and to speak out publicly against violations of human rights online.

To the International Telecommunications Union & Member States

  • We call upon all those represented at WCIT in December, 2012 to reject any proposals that might expand ITU authority in ways that would threaten the continued growth and global nature of the internet or restrict the exercise of human rights online.

Signatories:

  • Freedom House
  • 'Gbenga Sesan, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria
  • Thai Netizen Network
  • Kamal Sedra, DISC Development
  • Mahmood Enayat, Small Media
  • Asociacion por los Derechos Civiles, Argentina
  • Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan
  • Alaksiej Carniajeu, Belarus IT Aid
  • Siarhei Mackievic, Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs of Belarus
  • Anas Helali, Syrian IT specialist
  • Arzu Geybullayeva, Azerbaijani blogger
  • Myanmar ICT for Development Organization
  • i freedom Uganda
  • Community Empowerment for Progress Organization - CEPO, South Sudan
  • Egyptian Democratic Academy
  • Common Europe Foundation
  • Dr. Katy Pearce, Assistant Professor of Communication, University of Washington
Countries:

November 11, 2012 - Comments Off on A Short Interview with Emin Milli, an Azeri Blogger & Activist

A Short Interview with Emin Milli, an Azeri Blogger & Activist

Emin Milli, an Azerbaijani blogger and youth activist, spoke to Nighat Dad at 7th Internet Governance Forum in Baku. Emin Milli and his fellow activist were arrested in 2009 over a video which mocked government’s reported decision to import donkeys at ridiculous prices http://t.co/h0VYP2q4

Emin also wrote an open letter to President of Azerbaijan ahead of IGF while citing that the internet is not free in Azerbaijan.

“People in Azerbaijan live in fear. We fear for our lives, we fear for our jobs, we fear for the lives and jobs of our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we fear for our friends. We fear every time when someone close to us dares to disagree with you. We also pay a high price when we dare not to fear”

Here is the link to the video:

November 10, 2012 - Comments Off on Women of Azerbaijan on Internet: an Interview with Arzu Geybullayeva

Women of Azerbaijan on Internet: an Interview with Arzu Geybullayeva

Nighat Dad spoke to Arzu Geybullayeva - a regional analyst and blogger from Azerbaijan - during Internet Governance Forum 2012 at Baku. Arzu here shares the key regional issues faced by women in the country and discusses how people harass women rights defenders online.