Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Freedom of Expression

On 6th of July, The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva passed its first resolution on Internet freedom with a call for all states to support individuals' rights online as much as offline.
It affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice.
Despite opposition on the issue from nations including China, Russia and India, states promoting the resolution hailed the support of dozens of countries ahead of its adoption.
All 47 members of the Human Rights Council agreed upon the right to freedom of expression online, including censorship-prone countries like Cuba and China, whose frequent blocking of websites containing politically sensitive terms is often referred to as the “Great Firewall of China.”
The text had the support of 85 co-sponsors, 30 of whom are members of the HRC. The United States was among the text's co-sponsors.
The resolution on Freedom of Expression on Internet,
1. Affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice, in accordance with articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
2. Recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet as a driving force in accelerating progress towards development in its various forms;
3. Calls upon all States to promote and facilitate access to the Internet and international cooperation aimed at the development of media and information and communications facilities in all countries;
4. Encourages special procedures to take these issues into account within their existing mandates, as applicable;
5. Decides to continue its consideration of the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet and in other technologies, as well as of how the Internet can be an important tool for development and for exercising human rights, in accordance with its programme of work.
The resolution thus passed, is not binding. Therefore, many officials, including the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Ken Roth, are suggesting that its principal use is for public shaming.
Now, there have been some contradictions, when it comes to the support given to the bill. Most of the newspapers have informed us that India did not support this resolution, but while I was doing some research, I came across a few sites, which suggested that contrary to all the reports India did support the Freedom for Internet Bill. Now, I don’t know how much credible this information is, but it isn’t my job to give out conclusions, just the facts.
Well, as we all know, due to the Assam riots and everything that has happened in relation to it, the government has become even more stringent regarding the power and freedom that internet as well as other means of communication provide us.
In relation to this, the government put a ban on mobile users, on 17th August for 15 days, where no  one will be able to send more than five SMSs in one go and not more than 20 KB of data through mobile phones.
On Monday, June 20th, US Officials called on New Delhi to maintain Internet freedom in keeping with India's own commitment to human rights and rule of law, while offering to "consult" with social media companies to defuse the mess over inflammatory postings (which caused panic exodus of North eastern Indians) if the Indian government requested such mediation.
New Delhi is bearing down on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to clean up what it regards as hateful postings. 
The US, which is always on the side of full freedom of internet, has urged India to maintain respect for fundamental freedoms.
The ball, in some ways, is now in the court of the technology companies that produce the tools that countries use to monitor and circumscribe their citizens on the Internet.
One of the most common challenges for Internet companies with global operations is dealing with local laws that prohibit certain kinds of content. Google and Twitter publish how many requests they receive to remove content and how often they comply with the requests. Facebook, the world’s largest social network, does not, but it says that it removes posts and pages that are illegal in certain jurisdictions and violate the company’s terms of service.
I support freedom of Internet, but in my opinion, it should not become a way of spreading hatred. There's a difference between right to express yourself and abusing it to break communal harmony. I don't mind people sharing their views against the Government but writing or sharing false information to create havoc and disrupt the harmony and peace of the Nation is not at all part of the freedom.
Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas via speech. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, copyright violation and incitement to commit a crime.
When our forefathers created the constitution, I don’t think that creating such mayhem and then calling it freedom of speech and expression, was what they had in mind, but as you can see this is just my opinion. What’s yours??

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