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UN says online rights are also human rights and must be protected

In the last several days, some governments around the world raised their hands in solidarity with the importance of internet freedoms. The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council last week passed a landmark resolution which seeks protection of human rights on the Internet.

The resolution is on “the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet”. It builds on earlier declarations passed back in 2012 and 2014 that say offline rights should equally be enjoyed and protected online.

Countries that sponsored the latest resolution include Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden and Tunisia.

Just before voting commenced, South Africa made an explanation of vote citing specific issues to justify its opposition to the draft resolution.

It eventually voted against the resolution alongside China and Russia.

South Africa is frequently ranked number one in Africa on internet freedom but the recent tussle and controversy around issues of racism and xenophobia appears to have given it second thoughts.

The binding resolution text states that the UN

“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”

The declaration also

“calls upon all States to bridge the gender digital divide and enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of all women and girls”

While its rules, norms and standards are not always obeyed by governments, the UN, which was created in 1945, remains the single most important moral compass for most governments around the world.

The ongoing passing of these internet resolutions is a global recognition that internet freedoms are under threat and must be protected.

The latest resolution is an attempt by governments themselves to remind each other of the importance of online freedoms not only to individual user rights but also to development and overall progress of society.


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