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OSCE holds Internet Freedom Conference in Dublin

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Published on Jun 19, 2012

Experts and representatives from OSCE participating States, civil society organizations, media and business are taking part in the two-day conference, which was opened by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore.

"The Internet and other networked technologies have provided people all over the world with a new platform for exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression. It has become an indispensable tool for all citizens to seek, receive and impart information. We, in government, have an obligation to enable our citizens to access the Internet unhindered. Yet some governments are increasingly resorting to a variety of measures to restrict such freedoms, contrary to OSCE commitments and to international human rights law," said the Chairperson.

The conference opened with a high-level panel discussion that focused on ways to ensure that the Internet remains an open, global and public forum for freedom of opinion and expression.

"There are competing views about rights, freedoms, security and regulations online. The discussions of freedoms and rights and the discussions around security often appear to be running on parallel tracks," said Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, who is taking part in the panel. "We need to bring these debates and perspectives together, and we need to encourage a more interdisciplinary understanding of cyberspace governance that will help us avoid overly broad-brush attempts to legislate the Internet while enabling broad consultation".

The conference will also feature three sessions on online content, Internet governance and human rights, and new media: social media and social networks. In this event Azerbaijan is represented by IRFS chairman Emin Huseynov, IMS project manager Gulnara Akhundova, Ministry of Communication and Information Technologies representative Bakhtiyar Mammadov, OSCE Baku office representative Vusal Behbudov, Human Rights Club chairman Rasul Jafarov, blogger Emin Milli and www.news.az website editor-in-chief Rahman Hajiyev. IRFS chairman Emin Huseynov asked the OSCE representatives on how they regard the recent amendments made to the state legislation in Azerbaijan ahead of the Internet Governance Forum. "Azerbaijan will host the Internet Governance Forum on November 2012. It is a very significant event in the sphere of the internet. But unfortunately, last week the authorities of our country took an unprecedented step by adopting amendments proposed by the president to the law on access to information. Experts from media and civil societies consider that these changes will have a catastrophic impact on both the freedom of information and the idea of open government. I would like to ask a question to Mr. Tomas Melia, because Mrs. Hillary Clinton visited Azerbaijan last week. In her meeting with civil society she announced that one of the priorities of her visit is to discuss the "open government" issue with the government and civil society. What is your opinion on the changes to the legislation in Azerbaijan, with what the government wants to put legalized restrictions on the freedom of information, notably on the online freedom of information? Is it possible to develop the freedom of internet when there is such a restrictive law? Because, when citizens would like to request the government for information on how state funds are spent, the government will deny their request citing the new legislation according to which information on state purchases is a commercial secret. So we will not be able know who owns certain companies, or whether the owners of these companies are the relatives of the ruling family or not. Then how can we technically speak about the freedom of internet in Azerbaijan, a country which is the member of the OSCE and which will host such an important forum on internet freedom and internet governance? What can we do here? Thank you"

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