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UNESCO warns ITU on regulating Internet

UNESCO and ITU have formed the Broadband Commission. Now in an unprecedented intervention the UNESCO’s Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Professor Guy Berger, has warned ITU that the amended ITR will not only “threaten freedom of expression” but may also “incur extensive public criticism that could impact upon the UN more broadly.”

In his letter to the Secretary-General of the ITU, Dr Hamdoun Touré, Professor Berger points at Article 5A.4 of the new ITRs which says that member states must “ensure unrestricted public access to international telecommunication services and the unrestricted use of international telecommunications, except in cases where international telecommunication services are used for the purpose of interfering in the internal affairs or undermining the sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity and public safety of other States, or to divulge information of a sensitive nature.”

Professor Berger has voiced UNESCO’s concern about the words “information of a sensitive nature”, arguing that this designates a new criterion for limiting access to services that was not recognized in the older rules. His letter warns:

The phrase entitles Member States to exercise related constraints on the right to freedom of expression online, which in turn would also limit public access to the range of information allowed on the Internet. The limitation could also impact on the boundaries for the media to operate independently. In particular, the phrase does not conform to the accepted international standards as set out by…the binding elaboration of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Source: Equal Times

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