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Internet freedom

The availability of the Internet has increased access to information and brought greater transparency to governing, increased civil society participation in the decision-making process, created possibilities for offering better and cheaper public services, and has also saved  resources. Estonia believes that supporting freedom of expression on  the Internet is as important as all other activities related to the protection and promotion of human rights. The freedom of expression online is an inseperable part of human rights.

Estonia considers the report from 2011 by Frank La Rue, former UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to be one of the most important international milestones on the subject of Internet freedom. It is the first UN document which addresses the right to freedom of expression and information on the Internet. The main message of the report is that virtual freedom of expression is a human right like any other, needing protection and expansion.  According to the report, the Internet is one of the most influential instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency and access to information, and supporting it should be the priority of every state. On the other hand, La Rue expresses concern that several countries try to limit freedom of expression online. The report also includes a number of recommendations for what countries should do for the Internet to be free, safe and accessible to the general population (see the report (PDF)).

In Internet governance, Estonia supports the multi-stakeholder management model approved in Tunis in 2005, where in addition to countries, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and businesses are also involved. In order to protect and promote human rights, Estonia is actively participating and sharing its thoughts at various Internet freedom discussions and events all over the world. Estonia has supported all UN Human Rights Council resolutions on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of the human rights on the Internet. “Human rights and the rule of law on the Internet” was one the priority topics of the Estonian chairmanship of the Committee of the Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2016.

In April 2014, Estonia as a current chairman of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) organised the fourth annual meeting and the conference “Free and Secure Internet for All”. The high-level conference brought together over 400 people from more than 60 countries and focused on Internet freedom and governance. During a separate meeting, the ministers of the member states adopted the Tallinn Internet Freedom Agenda, confirming the common goal of all 23 member states to keep the Internet open, free and secure; one of the most important aspects that is reiterated is that human rights and Internet freedom are inseparable.

Freedom Online Coalition (FOC)

Founder: Netherlands

Founded at: 8-9.12.2011, The Hague

Inaugural members: Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Estonia, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, The United Kingdom, The USA, Sweden

Total members: 30 (as of 1 Jan 2017)

Goals

  1. Sharing information and coordinating diplomatic activities for bi- or multilateral meetings, such as in the UN system, ITU, the Internet Governance Forum, and regional organisations (OSCE, the Council of Europe, etc)
  2. Supporting people in countries where Internet freedom is limited..
  3. Cooperation with private sector and NGOs as important stakeholders of the Internet governance multistakeholder model. 

Functioning

  • Member states share information, submit proposals for common activities, draft joint statements by consulting and discussing via the mailing lists, conference calls or the meetings.
  • The chairman or the group of the friends of the chair members develop proposals for joint activities based on the opinions and positions of the member states of the Coalition.

Chairmanship

Chairmanship rotates between the member states. The founder of FOC was the first chairman. The member state holding the chairmanship is also the organiser of the next annual meeting.

FOC annual conferences

Last updated: 9 January 2017

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