Human Rights 3 May 2012

Internet Society Underscores Importance of World Press Freedom Day

The open, global Internet fosters freedom of the press and freedom of expression 

[Geneva, Switzerland, 03 May 2012] – The Internet Society today joined global celebrations around World Press Freedom Day, which focuses on the fundamental principles of press freedom. The Internet Society is strongly supportive of press freedom, fully recognizing that an open, global, and decentralized Internet is a pillar to enable all voices to be heard. 
Building on the thematic focus of the last International Human Rights Day, which highlighted the transformational role of the Internet and social media applications in giving voice to people around the world, the 2012 theme of the UNESCO hosted World Press Freedom Day is “New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies.” This theme is particularly timely in the wake of the popular movements in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, which highlighted the important role of social media in generating awareness of and support for efforts of people from all walks of life seeking to have their voices heard. The Internet was a powerful amplifier for these voices.
The Internet Society strongly believes that the Internet is an essential vehicle for promoting freedom of opinion and expression, including “freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Earlier this year, Markus Kummer, Vice President for Public Policy at the Internet Society, delivered a statement at the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council in a panel on the right to freedom of expression and the Internet. Kummer emphasized the importance of a multistakeholder dialogue to further this objective. 
Kummer remarked, “There is no doubt that the unique characteristics of the Internet have empowered individuals to seek, receive, and impart information and opinion in unexpected ways and scale. This success is based on an open and collaborative approach to technology development. The core values of the Internet pioneers were deeply rooted in the belief that the human condition can be enhanced by removing barriers to communication and information.” 
However, media freedom is fragile. Journalists are being harassed or killed for doing their work, publications are being censored or shut down, and laws are being passed which criminalize free speech. This reality does not change on the Internet. Along with the new communication opportunities offered by the Internet, new challenges have emerged through the use of measures such as content filtering, monitoring, and suspension of Internet access, often without due regard to individuals’ fundamental rights. Journalists should enjoy the same rights and the same protection whether they are working in online or offline environments.  
A free press is essential to ensuring government accountability towards its citizens and to foster vibrant and dynamic societies.  The open and global Internet has created a new set of journalistic and communication practices, amplifying previously unheard voices and enabling new forms of democratic participation. 
Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO of the Internet Society, commented, “We believe an open and decentralized Internet is an essential platform for press freedom and human progress. The Internet Society will continue its work to ensure an open Internet that enables freedom of expression and the free flow of information online.”
For more information on the Internet Society and World Press Freedom Day, visit
Media contact: Wende Cover, [email protected], +1-703-439-2773 

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