Internet freedom is a fundamental human right for people everywhere, including those who live in countries belonging to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE. With each day that passes, said U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Ian Kelly, “the Internet and other connection technologies are having an ever greater impact on the way our citizens communicate and interact on matters mundane and momentous.”
The United States is committed to addressing Internet freedom within the context of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Internet freedom, said Ambassador Kelly has two important components, and they are inseparable: one, ensuring that the Internet remains global, open and free; and two, ensuring that people are free to employ the new technologies to exercise their enduring rights.
Increasingly, digital technologies are the tools people are using. “This is a new reality,” said Ambassador Kelly, “but there is nothing new about our obligations under international law and our OSCE commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Citizens using connection technologies are keys to economic progress and to tackling societal issues. Modern societies cannot succeed and thrive without informed and engaged citizens equipped with the latest tools.
Wherever there are serious online and offline restrictions on freedom of expression, the freedoms of association, assembly and religion also are restricted in real space and cyberspace. The interconnections among fundamental freedoms become more apparent as new technologies converge. For example social media are capable of facilitating actual and virtual conversations, associations and assemblies in real time.
A basic precept of the OCSE’s work on Internet freedom, said Ambassador Kelly, should be that the same international protections of human rights and fundamental freedoms that apply in real space also apply in cyberspace.
The U.S. urges the OSCE to reaffirm that human rights and fundamental freedoms do not change with new technologies and that all participating states have the responsibility to ensure protection of these rights and freedoms online and off.