Internet accessibility has become a pre-condition for the enjoyment of fundamental rights, notably freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. In a recent report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, underlined that, “by acting as a catalyst for individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Internet also facilitates the realization of a range of other human rights.” He also recommended that ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states. In some European countries this is already a reality.
Internet access and freedom are linked to the universality, integrity and openness of the Internet. The threats that affect these qualities of the Internet are not limited to national borders. They cannot be addressed only by means of technical measures, stakeholders acting alone or in groups or on the basis of informal, professional and trust-based interactions. Collective action is necessary to preserve the Internet as a means of safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms as well as promoting innovation and economic growth.
In a Council of Europe context, ministers of its 47 member states have affirmed that they share the responsibility to take reasonable measures to ensure the ongoing functioning of the Internet and, in consequence, of the delivery of the public service value to which all persons under their jurisdiction are entitled. Interstate co-operation and solidarity is of paramount importance to the proper functioning, stability and universality of the Internet.
What are states’ legitimate expectations of solidarity and co-operation vis-à-vis each other? What do stakeholders expect of states to do in this regard? Should such expectations receive explicit recognition in normative frameworks and how to build international consensus on them?
The Council of Europe is at the moment working towards the goal Internet freedom through exploring instruments entailing commitments to protect and promote Internet’s universality, integrity and openness. The results of this work will be presented and discussed with stakeholders during this workshop.