The United Nations has declared that unfettered Internet accessibility is a basic human right, and essential for nurturing human aspirations. And its all because of the “Arab Spring” uprisings in the Middle East.
Since the democratic uprisings started, besieged the regimes in the Arab world repeatedly imposed Internet blackouts on their citizens to prevent pro-democracy activists from linking with each other. That dictatorial reaction has resulted in something good for all of humanity.
In this United Nations report, released Friday, Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations, noted the importance of the Internet during political uprisings. He adds that the internet “has become an indspensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all state”. La Rue cited the importance of the Internet in mobilizing efforts toward human rights, equality, justice, democratic change, transparency and accountability.
But the UN shouldn’t have waited for the Arab Spring to make this important declaration. The recognition should have come just after the Internet came into being. That’s because the Internet was revolutionary from the beginning. It’s different from the print media, television and radio, which are all one-way forms of communication. The Internet is interactive.
But the internet also empowers individuals. As a blogger, I create content, publish, share, collaborate. I fully participate in the national conversation on Canada’s politics and place in the world. I have a voice. It took this long for the UN to recognize this. But I’m glad the UN encourages governments empower their populations by enacting laws that increase access to the Internet.
From the report:
The Special Rapporteur remains concerned that legitimate online expression is being criminalized in contravention of States’ international human rights obligations, whether it is through the application of existing criminal laws to online expression, or through the creation of new laws specifically designed to criminalize expression on the Internet.
Such laws are often justified as being necessary to protect individuals’ reputation, national security or to counter terrorism. However, in practice, they are frequently used to censor content that the Government and other powerful entities do not like or agree with.
The Canadian Progressive recommends: