Go Top
Go Top

Committed to connecting the world

Newsroom • Press Release

Share
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn e-Mail

World Conference on International Telecommunications affirms right to freedom of information online

Delegates emphasize pre-eminence of UN treaties on human rights

Dubai, 4 December, 2012 – Delegates at the second Plenary session of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12, 3-14 December) today overwhelmingly supported the importance of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirming the right of all people to freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The WCIT-12 conference is being held to renegotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), a binding global treaty that facilitates global interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, setting out general principles for ensuring the free flow of information around the world and promoting affordable and equitable access for all.

A proposal introduced by the delegation of Tunisia asked the conference to include in Article 1 new wording specifically protecting freedom of expression, noting that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online”. It asked that Member States protect the right to “all dissemination means through telecommunications and ICTs in the exercise of this right, as well as the freedom of online peaceful assembly.”

The proposal sparked some vigorous debate, with delegates unanimously speaking out in favour of online freedom. Tunisia also pointed out that the events which have taken place recently in some regions of the world show that despite the existence and recognition of these rights in existing texts, this has not prevented some countries from cutting off international telecommunications, emphasizing that Tunisia believes the WCIT-12 conference should send a very strong signal about the need to protect the right to freedom of expression.

The conference asserted that additional text was not needed to be added to the highly technical treaty in view of the fact that the right to freedom of expression is already expressly protected by the text of treaties which take legal precedence over the ITRs, including  Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 33 of the ITU’s own Constitution.

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré had himself already spoken out strongly on the issue in his opening speech to the conference Plenary on Monday 3 December: “One of the most persistent myths [about WCIT-12] concerns freedom of expression, and it has been suggested that this conference might in some way act to restrict the open and free flow of information. In Article 33 of the ITU’s Constitution, however, Member States recognize the right of the public to correspond by means of the international service of public correspondence. And the ITRs cannot contradict that provision, or indeed any other article in the ITU Constitution.” Dr Touré went on to quote the text of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in full, reminding all delegates that “here in Dubai we are not going to be challenging Article 19, or indeed any other article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also forthright on the need to assert freedom of expression in his video message to delegates at the opening of the conference on Monday. “The Arab Spring showed the power of ICT to help people voice their legitimate demands for human rights and greater accountability…The management of information and communication technology should be transparent, democratic and inclusive of all stakeholders …The United Nation system stands behind the goal of an open internet. The right to communicate is central to the ITU’s mission. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom of expression across all media and all frontiers…These freedoms are not up for negotiation,” he said. 

He also reminded delegates that the World Summit on the Information Society (2003/2005) affirmed the essential right to the free flow of information and ideas for peace, development and common progress.

Just prior to WCIT-12, the ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12) revised and adopted Resolution 69 on Non-discriminatory access and use of Internet resources recommending that ITU’s 193 Member States refrain from taking any unilateral and/or discriminatory actions that could impede another Member State from accessing public Internet sites and using resources, within the spirit of Article 1 of the ITU Constitution and the principles set out during the 2003/2005 World Summit on the Information Society.

______

A full English transcript derived from the simultaneous captioning in the meeting rooms is available for all Plenary and Committee 5 sessions at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/captioning.aspx.

Live and archived multilingual webcasts of the WCIT-12 opening ceremony, opening press conference and all meetings of the conference Plenary and Committee 5 over the coming two weeks are available at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/webcast.aspx

From today, ITU will host a daily media briefing with the ITU Secretary-General and other key officials recapping each day’s discussions. These briefings will take place at 18:00 local Dubai time, accessible on any computer via the Adobe Connect platform at: http://itu.adobeconnect.com/wcit2012/

Speeches, daily meeting schedules and other information can be found on the main WCIT-12 Newsroom at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/newsroom.aspx

A FAQ, a comprehensive set of Background Briefs covering the main discussion topics and a WCIT Myth Buster presentation can be found at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/WCIT-backgroundbriefs.aspx

View videos from the meeting and download broadcast quality video footage at: www.itu.int/en/newsroom/Pages/videos.aspx

Photos from the meeting can be downloaded at: www.flickr.com/photos/itupictures/sets/72157632073685626/

The main conference preparatory documents can be found at: www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/documents.aspx

The current ITRs can be found at: www.itu.int/oth/T3F01000001

Note to editors:

ITU is unique within the UN family in having some 700 Sector Members (mainly from the private sector) in addition to 193 Member States. All have been actively engaged in the WCIT-12 preparatory process, which has been underway for some years. In addition, ITU set up a public consultation website open to all stakeholders in six languages (total of 31 submissions received between 15 August-7 November, of which 29 published [and 2 rejected because of unauthorized hyperlinks]). ITU has also held four global briefings (supporting remote participation from anywhere around the world) open to media, analysts and civil society: those held using Adobe Connect are archived at: http://www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/media-briefings.aspx.

The full text of the Tunisian proposal:

ITU (Preamble, Articles, Final Formula)

ADD TUN/25/1

1.0   1.0   In implementing the provisions of these Regulations, Member States shall protect the Right to Freedom of Expression as recognized by Articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and by Article 33 of the Constitution; and thereby protect access to all dissemination means through telecommunication/ICTs in the exercise of this right as well as the freedom of online peaceful assembly and of association and all other rights on which States shall impose no limitations other than those permitted by international law, in particular international human rights law (HRC Resolution 21/25)

Member States acknowledge 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 the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; (HRC Resolution 20/8).

In this regard, Member States shall ensure that any restrictions placed on the exercise of the Right to Freedom of Expression through the means of telecommunication/ICTs should be in accordance with the criteria set forth in Article 43 of the Constitution and of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

ENDS

For more information, please contact:

Paul Conneally
Head, Communications & Partnership Promotion, ITU
tel +41 22 730 5601
mobile +41 79 592 5668 
  +971 55 639 7614
email  paul.conneally@itu.int   
Sarah Parkes
Chief, Media Relations and Public Information, ITU
tel +41 22 730 6135
mobile +41 79 599 1439
  +971 55 639 7644
email sarah.parkes@itu.int   
Gary Fowlie
Head, ITU liaison Office to the United Nations
tel +1 917 679 5252
mobile +971 55 639 7677
email gary.fowlie@itu.int    
Zara Nazim
Raee PR
Dubai Media City
tel +971 50 801 2315
email  z.nazim@raeeme.com  
Sana Al-Lababidi
Raee PR
Dubai Media City
tel +971 50 162 6565
email s.lababidi@raeeme.com   
Noora Al Ameri
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority
United Arab Emirates
tel +971 55 893 2525
email  noora.alameri@tra.gov.ae   
Noor M. Shamma
Media Relations Manager
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority
United Arab Emirates
tel +971 2 611 8260
email  noor.shamma@tra.gov.ae    
 

 

Note for media: please register in ITU’s video newsroom for access to broadcast quality footage and news packages at www.itu.int/en/newsroom/Pages/videos.aspx.

 

About ITU...

 

Follow Us
Copyright © ITU 2014 All Rights Reserved Feedback  Contact Us  Accessibility