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United Nations

Joint Statement at the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression, delivered by Finland on behalf of the Freedom Online Coalition, 1 July 2021

United Nations Human Rights Council

47th Session, item 3

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression

1-2 July 2021

Joint Statement by the Freedom Online Coalition

Delivered by H.E. Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi, Permanent Representative

This statement is delivered on behalf of the Freedom Online Coalition.

The Freedom Online Coalition is a Coalition of 32 governments deeply committed to the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We strongly believe that human rights including the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association must be respected and implemented both offline and online – worldwide. We welcome other states’ support for this view.

The Coalition extends its warmest thanks to Special Rapporteur Khan for her contribution to the Coalition activities this year. 

The Internet should be guided by policies that promote the free flow of information and that protect human rights and foster innovation, creativity, and economic growth. The Freedom Online Coalition will continue to advance these goals worldwide. The Coalition believes that digital technologies and, in particular the Internet, provide a unique platform that enable individuals to exercise their human rights more fully, including the freedom to hold and express opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. 

The Coalition is deeply concerned with the growing trend of state-sponsored actions to curb these freedoms. This includes the use of arbitrary or unlawful surveillance practices; partial or complete Internet shutdowns and network disruptions as well as online content regulation and censorship that are inconsistent with human rights law. The Coalition is also alarmed by the manipulation of information and spread of disinformation by both State and non-State actors to undermine the international rules-based order and erode support for the democracy and human rights that underpin it.

Shutdowns and state-sponsored network disruptions may silence political opposition, limit peaceful protests and prevent human rights defenders from documenting abuses. Moreover, arbitrary network disruptions are inconsistent with the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, undermine the economic benefits of the Internet and disrupt access to essential services such as health care.

Internet censorship can deprive individuals, whose voices are not equally represented by mainstream media sources, of the core platforms where they access educational resources, express themselves and interact with each other. Censorship often affects women and girls and other individuals who may face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

The Coalition calls on all governments to immediately end Internet shutdowns and to refrain from content restrictions or actions that restrict civic space online and offline, in violation of states’ obligations under international human rights law. All governments should act in a manner that ensures a free, open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet, and fully respects human rights including the freedom of expression.

Thank you.

List of members of the Freedom Online Coalition:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • The Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • The Maldives
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Tunisia
  • UK
  • USA
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