Guest Blogs

Alison Bethel McKenzie

A great threat to media freedom | Alison Bethel McKenzie
The International Press Institute (IPI), the world’s oldest global media freedom organization, is pleased to mark 15 years since the establishment of the Office ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Christian Möller

“From Quill to Cursor”* and 140 Characters | Christian Möller
When I first joined the Office of the OSCE Media Freedom Representative in the summer of 2002, a colleague of mine – a senior U.S. diplomat – asked whether I knew “how to google” ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

William Horsley

Media freedom requires that the state must stay out of the ring  | William Horsley
Once, it seemed that things could only get better. But then somehow they got worse again. That is my shorthand summary of the path of media freedom in the past 15 years. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Johan Hallenborg

Freedom of expression set to turbo mode | Johan Hallenborg
Swedes are a pretty tech savvy bunch. We like cool, new, shiny gadgets, too. And we start early: last year, half of all three-year-olds in Sweden were on the net... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Leonid Kozhara

A unique institution promoting media freedom | Leonid Kozhara
I would like to express my congratulations on the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Begaim Usenova

Kyrgyzstan’s Media Law | Begaim Usenova
In 2010, defamation was decriminalized in Kyrgyzstan. This step was perceived in the world as political will of the country’s leadership to ensure the citizens’ right for freedom of expression and opinion.. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Galina Arapova

Freedom of expression: development, trial, protection | Galina Arapova
In recent years we have seen a rapid change in media environment, we were lucky to witness an unprecedented technological and informational progress.. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Marietje Schaake

Saving the open Internet requires protecting the rights of its users | Marietje Schaake
Technological developments and the open Internet have led to revolutionary changes and the potential of emancipating individuals, bottom up... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Timothy Karr

The Internet’s Growing Pains | Timothy Karr
At 15, the OSCE’s office for media freedom is now half the age of the modern Internet. In 1983, engineers of what was then known as the ARPANET switched over to a communications ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Dr. Agnes Callamard

The keys to improve the media freedom situation in the OSCE region and beyond the next 15 years | Dr. Agnes Callamard
The information technology revolution of the last two decades has profoundly transformed print and broadcast media, journalism, the production of news... Read full article

15 Years of the Representative on Freedom of the Media

Free expression and free media are basic human rights. The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media was established in December 1997 to protect them.

Dunja Mijatovic

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and promotes full compliance with OSCE press freedom commitments.

Saving the open Internet requires protecting the rights of its users

By Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament and member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs

Technological developments and the open Internet have led to revolutionary changes and the potential of emancipating individuals, bottom up. But increasingly technological possibilities also put the spotlight back on top down responsibilities. They prompt serious questions about power, governance and fundamental freedoms.

Policies are lagging behind in ensuring a relevant regulatory framework. While over-regulation should not be desired, we need more robust mechanisms to protect the fundamental rights of Internet users. Governments but also companies need to be accountable. Unchecked power, whether in the market or in the restriction of the rights and freedoms of people risk destroying the opportunities that the open Internet brings all over the world. We need to find global solutions to ensure freedom and security are not zero-sum.

Whilst in free societies, governments bear the prime responsibility to ensure security and to guarantee rights and freedoms, the risk of eroding freedom under the banner of security is eminent and challenges the open Internet as such.

Both companies and governments play a key role. The basic platforms citizens use for free expression and access to information are more than ever inextricably linked with public authority and questions around trust and security. Whether it is mass censorship in China or Iran, the boundless surveillance by the United States government or the opaque trade in software vulnerabilities and other digital arms, the individual user is facing new risks most people can hardly oversee. In a globally connected world checks and control of power should also be cross-border.

Without prejudice to any legitimate legal consideration the Snowden and Wiki leaks have undeniably been instrumental for the current debate on digital freedoms and show the need for clear rules on protection of whistle-blowers. They have revealed the extent to which the public value and the public interest have come under pressure from governments and companies alike.

Although governments are entrusted with national security and defense policy they increasingly rely on corporate infrastructures to execute these responsibilities. The secret snooping in databases of US data companies is perhaps the most telling example.

The creation of national Internets, or intranets, is gaining renewed momentum only after proposals to that end were curbed during the 2012 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) meeting in Dubai. Germany now seeks a role for the UN in protecting privacy online, European politicians call for a ‘European online cloud’ and Brazil is working on a national email-service. As understandable as these responses to the NSA revelations may be, the known examples of countries that have nationalized internet should serve as a deterrent more than an example.

We need to be very wary of the looming balkanization of the Internet, which because of its very open nature and borderlessness became a powerful agent of change and progress. An open internet also implies its objectivity or neutrality. Indiscriminate access is key. So-called net neutrality should be codified in laws all over the world and the EU should set the right example.

But more than technical frameworks, the Internet user should be protected, anywhere in the world. This means rule of law principles should translate to the online and digital environments. Restrictions to freedom online can only be legitimate in well-defined cases, according to transparent criteria and provided that judicial oversight is guaranteed. We should focus on these criteria and the respective role governments and companies play. It is high time for a fact-based and transparent debate. I trust the EU and OSCE will play a key role in that process.