//This blog post by Ephraim Percy Kenyanito was originally published on Access, an online international human rights organization focused on extending digital rights to users around the world. Click here to read the original post.
Right now the United Nations Human Rights Council is holding its 23rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group session (November 2nd-13th, 2015). The Universal Periodic Review is the cooperative process by which the Human Rights Council reviews the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member states.
Here’s a look at the digital rights landscape in Mauritania and Rwanda, and the implications for people at risk of human rights violations in these countries.
Mauritania – domestic and international human rights obligations
Mauritania has signed on to various international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), the Convention against Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED), and the Optional Protocol to the CAT (OPCAT).
Article 10 of Mauritania’s constitution (PDF) guarantees to all citizens the freedom of expression, assembly, and association. However, according to the UPR, these rights are being violated.
Violation of digital rights in Mauritania
There has been systematic disregard of digital rights in Mauritania. These include:
- Violation of access to information/ freedom of expression
June 13–21, 2011: The Emirati government applied pressure on an Emirati company to block the website of a Mauritanian newspaper El Badil Al Thalith. This censorship took place after the newspaper published articles criticising Arab leaders, including the United Arab Emirates government.
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Just before the official opening of the 2015 UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on November 10, 2015, the core of the current challenges of internet governance were laid out by a panel in a Scene Setting session. Speakers’ interventions corresponded with the sub-themes of this year’s IGF under the overarching topic “Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development.” Check out the following infographic to explore the eight challenges outlined during this session.
Please click image to view full infographic.
Content for the infographic was provided by Christian Möller.
Brazil 2014: Marco Civil and NETmundial
In April 2014, a Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, also known asNETmundial, was hosted by the Brazilian government in São Paulo. NETmundial brought together over nine hundred attendees from governments, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society and resulted in the adoption of a (non-binding) Internet Governance Roadmap. Following the meeting, a number of pieces reviewed and commented on NETmundial’s outcome and final documents. The Center for Global Communication’s Internet Policy Observatory, for example, published Beyond NETmundial: The Roadmap for Institutional Improvements to the Global Internet Governance Ecosystem to explore how sections of “NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement” could be implemented. The meeting also played host to a seriesdiverging narratives not only between governments, States, and civil society, but also among various civil society actors.
Symbolically, on the first day of NETmundial, President Rousseff signed into law the Marco Civil da Internet – a law which many see as a benchmark for a modern, freedom-oriented approach to internet regulation. The Marco Civil was developed through a consultation process which included the participation of civil society, and discussions and debates over online platforms. The legislation provides general safeguards for the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, as well as a guarantee of net neutrality. One much applauded provision of the law is that service providers do not hold liability for content. Providers have no responsibility for users’ actions, and there are only sanctions against providers if they do not fulfill court orders to remove content. The law also contains an obligation to adopt a multistakeholder model of internet governance at all levels.
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Turkish media expert Dr. Bilge Yesil reflects on findings from the newly released report “Benchmarking Demand: Turkey’s Contested Internet.” In her post, Dr. Yesil examines what the report’s results mean for researchers, policymakers, and internet freedom activists in Turkey. Click here to read the full report.
Do a quick online search on Internet policy in Turkey, and it’s very likely that you will see reports and news stories with “censorship fears,” “decline in online freedoms,” and “Internet crackdown” in the title. It is also likely that you will read about how Internet and free speech activists in Turkey are decrying the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government’s heavy-handed approach to online communications, and maybe you will even get the sense that the level of support for Internet freedoms is quite high among ordinary users. You will also come acrossnews stories that celebrate Turkish users’ expert circumvention of social media bans: “Battle-trained… users…quickly turned on VPN services that reroute access through other countries to conceal the point of access to a platform, effectively nullifying the [Twitter] blackout.”
I bring up these talking points because they shed light on our assumptions about Internet users in Turkey—that they are concerned about online restrictions, do support Internet freedoms, and easily bypass social media bans. But I have often wondered who these users are. What is their socio-economic background? Are they the tech-savvy youth? Are they in fact the “upper classes…the ones who can afford the technology”? What do users think about Internet restrictions? How much of a difference do socio-economic background, education level and political party affiliation make in their approval/disapproval of the government’s Internet policies? Are there users who perhaps are not concerned about Internet censorship at all (gasp!) and do think that social media threatens traditional values? If so, who are they?
The OSU/Koc/Annenberg survey offers valuable…
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