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Wednesday, 22 February 2012 02:00

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

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The present report is submitted to the General Assembly by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 7/36 and 16/4. The report expands upon the last report submitted to the Council by the Special Rapporteur on key trends and challenges to the right of all individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through the Internet (A/HRC/17/27), and addresses the issue through two equally important dimensions of Internet access: access to online content (sect. III), and access to Internet connection (sect. IV). In section III, the Special Rapporteur outlines the types of expression that States are exceptionally required to prohibit under international law (III.A) and also discusses impermissible restrictions (III.B), given the ongoing debate regarding regulation of content on the Internet.

The report also addresses the importance of digital literacy and training in information and communications technology skills for individuals to enable them to access online content in an effective and meaningful manner. While access to Internet connection is not yet recognized as a human right, the report focuses on the positive obligation of States to facilitate the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression via the Internet, and outlines both challenges and positive initiatives to make the Internet available, accessible and affordable to all segments of society (sect. IV). The report concludes with recommendations to ensure full access to online content that is free of censorship and access to Internet connection, particularly for marginalized and disadvantaged groups.