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Home   >   News   >   Press release

[Brussels | 1st November 2006]

There?s nothing new about repression: for decades citizens have responded to governments which encroach on their freedom of speech by writing letters, articles and books. They have been spied on, persecuted, and silenced. The Internet has given the oppressed a voice that reaches further than any letter, article or book ever has. But autocratic regimes have been quick to restrict the free flow of information on the Internet. In the age of worldwide mass communication, freedom of expression is being reigned in rapidly. The Internet Governance Forum seeks to safeguard the freedom to receive and access online information. Its first meeting in Athens underlines the Internet?s considerable potential to contribute to the development and flourishing of open democratic societies.

Cyber-repression - or the misuse of ICT to stem the free flow of information - is incompatible with basic human rights and European democratic values. Delegates at the World Summit on Information Society held in Tunis in November 2005 agreed on the importance of Internet governance. A year later their policy commitments are becoming reality. An agreement to further internationalise Internet governance was already brokered at the Summit. The new forum, convened by the UN Secretary-General, now aims to discuss a broad range of governance topics with all stakeholders.

The debate will focus on openness: a free flow of information, ideas and knowledge is a basic prerequisite for democracy. In addition, the Internet should promote multilingualism and focus on local content. The forum also aims to increase internet connectivity and look at the policies and costs involved.

In addition, the forum will continue EU efforts to bridge the digital divide. Internet access supports economic development and helps to overcome social, educational, territorial and even disability-related barriers. E-infrastructure initiatives such as the Géant grid and international cooperation programmes like EUMEDIS and in Latin America have already gone a long way in narrowing the gap.

More information on Internet governance: