Civil Society Groups Issue Statement at the Arab IGF

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We are a group of more than 40 civil society organizations, activists, academics, technologists, and human rights advocates who work towards the realization of an open, accessible, and safe Internet. We are deeply concerned about the future role of the Internet in economic and social development and the spread of human rights violations on the Internet in the Arab world. Below is a draft statement that we drafted and endorsed at the third annual Arab Internet Governance Forum in Beirut, Lebanon, November 26–27, 2014.

Freedom of expression and detainees

  • We assert that governments have a responsibility to protect freedom of expression and implement legal mechanisms that hold governmental bodies and officials to account for violating this human right.
  • We demand that no person be subjected to judicial or extrajudicial harassment for asserting their right to freedom of expression. We further demand the release of all those who have been detained for practicing this and other civil and political rights and that all charges against them be dropped unconditionally.
  • We demand the abolition of all forms of censorship.

Online privacy

  • We demand clearly drafted laws that regulate surveillance only to the extent necessary to achieve a legitimate aim, and proportionate to the aim pursued. Further, these laws must invoke protections for the rights to freedom of expression, privacy, communication, and assembly.
  • We demand clearly drafted data protection laws that secure the right to privacy and whose implementation is monitored by an entity that is independent from government and the private sector.
  • We demand the publication of all agreements between governments and telecommunications companies, Internet service providers (ISPs), and other intermediaries. Additionally, we demand that all government agencies, telecommunications companies, ISPs, and other intermediaries publish clearly drafted, easily accessible user privacy policies for their Internet services.

Accessibility and right of access to information

  • We assert that access to the Internet is a human right and demand that governments take the necessary measures to ensure Internet access for all people, including special measures for economically and socially marginalized groups.
  • We call for public access to government data and archives, the elimination of restrictions on the use of this data, and the storage, organization, and dissemination of this data according to globally recognized open technical standards.
  • We demand access to information laws that ensure public access to data held by state institutions and agencies, including access to information about all forms of state revenue and spending.

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