Internet freedom and our OFWs
The internet, particularly its social media, is often cited as a catalyst for the so-called “Arab Spring” in the Middle East and North Africa and other such freedom movements. Perhaps as an ode to online freedom of expression, the United Nations Council on Human Rights recently approved a resolution regarding the “Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet.”
The historic resolution includes an affirmation that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice, in accordance with articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The document also “recognizes the global and open nature of the Internet as a driving force in accelerating progress towards development in its various forms” and “calls upon all States to promote and facilitate access to the Internet and international cooperation aimed at the development of media and information and communications facilities in all countries.”
Eighty-five countries supported this resolution.
Surprisingly, the Philippines was not one of them.
Instead, during the earlier deliberations on Internet Freedom, our representative to the UN Council on Human Rights decided to side with a minority bloc composed of China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Russia, among other countries, in favor of Internet regulation.
We backed China’s statement read during a panel discussion on Internet Freedom, an excerpt of which is found below:
“The abuse of the freedom of expression in particular on the Internet, can encroach on the rights and dignity of other individuals, undermine social safety and stability, even threaten national security. The Internet is often used to propagate terrorism, extremism, racism, xenophobia, even ideas of toppling legitimate authorities. Moreover, the Internet is used by some groups to distort facts, exaggerate situations and provoke violence, in an attempt to escalate tension wherever it appears and gain political benefits. The Internet is also used by criminals to incite outlaw activities and to target sensitive facilities.”
Online rescue info
Ironically, it is the Internet that strong-armed regimes try to cut when threatened with exposure through graphic photos and videos swapped and shared.
During the height of the civil war in Libya, the Blas F. Ople Center worked closely with the Philippine Embassy through Facebook in order to bring home two household workers in the employ of Gadhafi’s niece. In Syria, entrapped foreign workers, including our own, have found refuge in social media.
Thus, Internet protection is not just about chasing criminals across the World Wide Web. It is also about protecting the Internet from powerful forces that see their demise in its unfettered freedom. How sad that even before we could start a discussion thread about Internet freedom, our diplomats have already decided against it.
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