Address by Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the Panel discussion on the right to freedom of expression on the Internet
19th Human Rights Council
On behalf of Estonia I’d like to express our appreciation for organizing this panel discussion and all the participants for their very useful contributions. Internet freedom is an important priority in Estonian foreign policy. Like Minister Bildt, who elaborated on this topic extensively during his recent address to the Riksdag, I made similar remarks on the role of Internet freedom in my speech on the Estonian foreign policy in the Estonian Parliament last week. Today, I would like make five points.
First of all, Estonia is convinced that freedom of expression has to apply regardless of the medium used to convey the message. The Internet is indeed a unique and powerful tool, but we believe that rather than creating a new legal regulatory framework, we should focus on how to implement already existing principles of the international human rights law.
Secondly, our activities in promoting Internet freedom should be focused first of all on different outreach activities. We should be realistic on what can and what cannot be achieved. Whereas cross-regional consensus on Internet freedom should be our long term objective, in the short-term a successful side-event like today’s appears more viable.
Thirdly, let’s keep in mind that people who live in the countries that restrict Internet content suffer every day. They need our support and sometimes simple and not so expensive solutions can be of great help. Creating access points is an example that comes first to my mind.
Fourth, Mr. La Rue has called for bridging of the digital divide. This is very important indeed. As a small country, we have not been a major contributor to the Internet infrastructure development, rather we have focused on sharing our experience as a country that uses Internet to facilitate everyday life of our citizens. Our e-voting, e-Cabinet, e-Health service and many other solutions that have made governance more transparent and different social services more accessible have also contributed to the bridging of the digital divide.
And finally, co-operation with the private sector is vital for the success of our efforts. The Global Network Initiative that enables co-operation and encourages good practices in relation to the Internet is useful platform. We should try to use the positive example from Google and others and promote it further.
Thank you for your attention!