OSCE Report on Freedom of Expression on The Internet

posted on 10 July, 2011   (public)

In 2010, the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the OSCE commissioned a report to assess Internet regulation among its Member States. Considering the global nature of the Internet, as well as the lack of harmonisation at international level, many States have adopted regulation measures in order to implement national legislation also on Internet related matters.

The OSCE examined, in particular, existing laws and practices related to freedom of expression, the free flow of information and media pluralism on the Internet, which are fields potentially menaced by national Internet legislation. Indeed, member states have made commitments in regard of media freedom principles with which they should act in accordance.

OSCE's study is based on a questionnaire given to participating members, which deals with four main subjects: a) internet access, b) internet content regulation, c) blocking, filtering and content removal and, d) licensing and liability & Internet hotlines. Because of the significant cultural diversity between Member States, national Internet legislation differs from one state to another. According to what is considered harmful in one state, for example, different content regulation has been adopted. In addition, participating states have various provisions as far as Internet access is concerned. For instance, lately many states have authorised blocking access to websites deemed illegal conforming to national legislation. Such practices are incompatible with OSCE commitments, as well as with other universal or European conventions signed by Member States and concerning media freedom, freedom of expression and free flow of information.

After having examined all the elements provided by participating states, the report made a series of recommendations which aim to ensure that the Internet remains an open and public forum for freedom of opinion and expression. Some of the aforementioned recommendations are the respect of net neutrality, refrain from mandatory blocking of content or websites, recognition of Internet access as a human right, all taking into consideration the borderless nature of Internet.

Source: Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the OSCE