For Estonia, virtual freedom of expression is an inseparable part of human rights. The availability of the internet has increased access of 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.
Estonia considers the report by Frank La Rue, 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 documents on the subject of internet freedom. It is the first UN document which deals with the right for freedom of expression and information in the internet. The main message of the report is that virtual freedom of expression 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 use existing laws or implement new laws in order to limit digital freedom of expression. The report also includes a number of recommendations for what countries should do for the internet to be freer, safer and more 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 participating and sharing its thoughts at various Internet freedom events. Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has given a speech on the subject at a high-level UN Human Rights Council event on the subject of internet freedom, in the Council of Europe and at the recent Internet freedom and cyber conferences in Seoul and in Tallinn. The President of the Republic of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, has also shared Estonia’s viewpoints and experiences in his speeches during numerous state and work-related visits and has also touched on the subject when addressing the UN General Assembly.
In April 2014, Estonia organized an Internet freedom themed conference. As current chairman of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), Estonia organised the fourth annual meeting and 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 free and whole and in which one of the most important aspects that is reiterated is that human rights and Internet freedom are inseparable.
Freedom Online Coalition (FOC)
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
Later members: Finland, Costa Rica, Tunisia and Latvia
Most recent members: Georgia and Germany
1) Sharing information and coordinating activities at current and future bi- or multilateral meetings, such as in the UN system, the Internet Governance Forum, and regional organisations (OSCE, Council of Europe etc.)
2) Supporting people in countries where Internet freedom is limited, such as China, Russia, India, etc.
3) Cooperation with private firms (to encourage them to expand and simplify their operations, thus supporting internet freedom. Such as Ebay, Google, etc.)
- Member states share information, submit proposals and consult via the liaison mailing list.
- The chairman, develops proposals for joint activities, based on the opinions and positions of the member states .
- Based on the default procedure, the member states either agree with the proposals of the chairman or submit their owncommentaries or proposals.
The founder is the first chairman. The member state holding the FOC conference is also automatically the chairman. If the organising member state is not able or interested, the chairmanship is passed to the previous organising state. Both the current and the previous organiser can ask another member state to share the chairmanship. The founder aids the chairman and remains an advisor. Estonia began fulfilling the role of the chairman after the conference in Tunis and remains the chairmanuntil the end of the Tallinn conference in 2014.