Onze minister Rosenthal van Buitenlandse Zaken ontpopt zich tot een eloquente verdediger van internetvrijheid. In de afgelopen maand heeft hij twee keer in een speech het belang van internetvrijheid onderstreept.
Op een bijeenkomst in Brussel over internetvrijheid op 24 maart 2011 zei hij (de speech is uitgebreider maar zeker de moeite waard om te lezen):
“New communications media have the power to effect positive change. We have seen how great a role the internet and social media played in the recent uprisings in the Arab world. The images from Tahrir Square are still fresh in our minds. Amidst the crowds of young men and women, mobile phones and laptops were charging in improvised sockets, connecting the square to the world. That has been a most hopeful sign for hundreds of millions of people in every corner of the globe who have taken to the internet to enhance their lives and seek new opportunities.
Yet for many people, going online entails risks […] It troubles me greatly that, over the past few years, more and more countries have restricted their peoples’ online activities in one way or another. By monitoring their opinions. By applying censorship. Or by blocking entire websites and social networking tools to stop people from connecting and communicating. Many recent examples spring to mind.
The internet is a huge new arena where the right to freedom of opinion and expression still has to be defended. Don’t misunderstand me: respect for freedom of expression on the internet should be viewed in conjunction with making the internet secure. Cybercrime and violations of property and privacy rights are serious problems that need to be addressed. But a secure internet should not be established at the expense of freedom of expression. It should be clear that freedom of expression is the foundation of every free nation. This fundamental right can only be restricted in exceptional cases, as provided by law.
With due respect for other basic human rights, states are responsible for ensuring the free flow of information, on the internet as elsewhere. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines this responsibility by providing that everyone has the ‘freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. Governments should live up to this. And others can help.
The private sector definitely has an important role to play. Several IT companies, including major search engines, have shown how seriously they take their corporate social responsibility by limiting their dealings with countries that censor the internet. Some of them even proactively provide cyber dissidents with tools against censorship. One good example was Google and Twitter’s joint efforts during the Egyptian uprising. They provided voicemail to help Egyptians speak their minds when the internet was down, and converted these voicemails into tweets to let the outside world know what was going on. In my opinion, such spontaneous corporate initiatives to tackle internet censorship are exemplary.”
Rosenthal was op 1 maart 2011 in Geneve en zei toen:
“We will be keen on the freedom of expression, if only because it opens the door to the enjoyment of many other rights. For that matter, internet freedom is part and parcel of the freedom of expression. In the past few months, we have seen once more how important new technologies and the social media are in enabling people to connect and join hands in promoting their causes. This is why the Dutch government favours a European ban on the sale of internet filters to dictatorial regimes.”