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6th EuroDIG

Opening statement of Jan Kleijssen, Director of Information Society and Action against Crime Council of Europe

 

Lisbon, 20-21 June 2013

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me congratulate our Portugese hosts and organisers, as well as the many supporters of this 6th EuroDIG.

The Council of Europe has been supporting EuroDIG since its inception in 2008 because it believes in the open and inclusive dialogue it promotes. It is our intention to keep supporting this dialogue. It important for our 47 member states to keep abreast of the issues and challenges ahead and, most importantly, to be included in the shaping of Internet policy.

Protecting Internet freedom is the best way to serve the public interest. The Council of Europe has done much to set standards to help governments protect the various dimensions of freedom - its architecture, the free flow of Internet traffic while respecting privacy, the avoidance of arbitrary content removal and so on - so that the Internet is free from interference and abuse.

These standards, coupled with the legally binding commitment of governments to protect human rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, are your baselines and references when discussing issues such as:

  • The recent ‘PRISM’ controversy which directly relates to the Committee of Ministers Declaration on the risks of tracking and surveillance technologies adopted only last week.

 

This Declaration warns against overly broad surveillance of citizens that can challenge their privacy and have a chilling effect on their freedom of expression and the freedom of the media,

  • The closure of Greek public broadcaster ERT. Are significant parts of the Greek population being denied access to an impartial sources of diverse information and expression, also online?

I refer to the Committee of Ministers Recommendation on the public service value of the Internet which refers to “people having a legitimate expectation that Internet services be accessible and affordable, secure, reliable and ongoing”.

I also refer to the recent ECHR ruling that blanket blocking of Google sites in Turkey violated the right to freedom of expression and access to information.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The health of a country can be measured by its efforts to protect the various dimensions of Internet freedom. This is because it is such an important enabler for the full exercise of the rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe believes that only in narrowly circumscribed circumstances can free speech and access to information be restricted.  

But there is no freedom with security.

People need to feel safe, including from offline consequences of online content. Children must be protected from abuse online, from grooming, from cyber-bullying.

People’s trust on the Internet depends on combating effectively all forms of crime. As one form of governance, the Council of Europe has elaborated several international legally-binding conventions to protect people from crimes committed on the Internet, including the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse (Lanzarote Convention), the protection of health against counterfeit medical products (Medicrime Convention), and for protection against cybercrime (Budapest Convention). 

In looking ahead, we must ensure the Internet is properly framed. I would like to draw your attention to the Council of Europe’s 10 Internet governance principles which the 47 member states adopted in 2011. These principles commit member states to:

  • recognise international human rights law,
  • promote the full participation of governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community and users,
  • recognise states have rights and responsibilities (…) to refrain from any action that would directly or indirectly harm persons or entities outside of their territorial jurisdiction,
  • empower users’,
  • recognise the free flow of Internet traffic,
  • acknowledge the need to protect the Internet’s architecture, its integrity and on-going functioning as we know it,
  • acknowledge the decentralised technical management of the Internet subject to transparency and being accountable to the global community,
  • preserve the end-to-end nature of the Internet,
  • ensure users have the greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services of their choice,
  • preserve cultural and linguistic diversity.

 
To achieve these principles, the full participation of governments and their dialogue with non-state actors is important for us, in the Council of Europe, to carry out our work in:

  • Helping users to understand and exercise their rights more effectively. Here, I draw your attention to the Council of Europe’s preparation of a compendium of rights for users, scheduled for adoption by its Committee of Ministers in early 2014,

 

  • Understanding the human rights implications of new generic top level domain names. Here, I refer to the Council of Europe’s human rights commentary for the Governmental Advisory Committee of ICANN,  
  • Engaging the private sector in dialogue to protect and respect human rights online. I would stress that the right to freedom of expression is the only article in the European Convention on Human Rights which explicitly refers to “responsibilities”.

 

In shaping the Internet we want - one which is open, free, safe and secure – let me invite you to consider the legal and political guidance and standards, and their implementation, as we move from 20th Century multilateralism to 21st Century multi-stakeholder dialogue.

Thank you for your attention.