Challenges and opportunities for freedom of expression on the internet: thematic conference at UNESCO, February 3-40ne hundred and fifty media professionals, academics, legal experts, freedom of expression campaigners, and policy-makers from all over the world, will look at ways to ensure respect for freedom of expression on the internet during a conference at UNESCO Headquarters, Freedom in Cyberspace, February 3-4.
The meeting is part of the preparation for the second and final phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that will take place in Tunis, November 16 – 18, 2005. The debates (in Room XI), which will be opened with an address by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura (February 3, 3.30pm), will focus on four themes:
1.Freedom of expression on the internet. The session, featuring a keynote address by Sandy Starr of Spiked Ltd, a British-based online publication on culture and freedom of expression on the web, will examine barriers to the exercise of freedom of information on the internet: lack of physical access, insufficient information literacy, and deliberate restrictions on the free flow of information. (February 3, 3.45 – 6 p.m.)
2.Between security and openness, should there be limits to freedom of expression and freedom of information? Featuring an address by Helen Darbishire, Director of the Freedom of Information and Expression Program of the Open Society Justice Initiative (USA), the session will take stock of the opportunities provided by the internet for citizens to understand and take part in the political process and to promote open governance. It will also ask whether there may be legitimate concerns, such as fear of terrorism, that justify limiting the free flow of information. (February 4 9-11 a.m.)
3.Open internet – open media. With a keynote address by Alexander Klein, Deputy Director General of ITAR TASS News Agency (Russia), the session will examine the impact of restrictions and regulation policies on the work of news media on the internet and their consequences for society. (February 4, 11.15 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
4.Freedom of expression, codes and creativity. With a keynote address by Gus Hosein of the London School of Economics, the session will consider ways to ensure that individuals can go on contributing contents on the internet without the obstacle of codes which some stakeholders are seeking to impose. (February 4, 3 - 5 p.m.)
The conclusions and recommendations of the debates will be presented at the closing session (February 4, 5.15-6.15 p.m.), by Abdul Waheed Khan, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information.
UNESCO, as the United Nations Organization, mandated to ensure the “free flow of ideas by work and image”, promotes freedom of expression and access to information both in traditional media and in the cyber age. It also advocated recognition for this right, and for the right to universal access to information, in the Declaration of Principles adopted during the first part of the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in December 2003.
Journalists wishing to cover the meeting should request accreditation from UNESCO’s Press Relations Section, firstname.lastname@example.org +33 (0)1 45681748