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'Online rights must be protected,' UN condemns internet shutdowns

'Online rights must be protected,' UN condemns internet shutdowns

Internet

The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) has passed a resolution in respect of freedoms of people on the internet. A legislation seen as a victory for activists who have condemned restrictions on internet in some countries.

The resolution on “the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet” (A/HRC/32/L.20) was the joint initiative of Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States of America.

Point 10 of the resolution read, ‘‘Condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law and calls on all States to refrain from and cease such measures.’‘

It further reaffirms that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online”. It is seen also as a significant political commitment by states, based on their existing obligations under international human rights law.

Among other key points the document admonishes governments to: ‘‘Desist and refrain from “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.”

‘‘This includes measures to shut down the Internet or part of the Internet at any time, in particular at times where access to information is critical, such as during an election, or in the aftermath of a terrorist attack,’‘ it added.

It also tasked governments to address security concerns relating to the internet with recourse to the obligations to protect the freedom of expression, privacy and other online rights.

It further tasked governments to adopt progressive means to expand internet access for all citizens, noting that a global and open internet were key factors to the attainment of Agenda 2023 Sustainable Development Goals.