IGF 2018 WS #82 Freedom of expression: can we defend a universal concept?

Organizer 1: Cécile Coudriou, Amnesty International France
Organizer 2: Henri Isaac,
Organizer 3: Sasha Havlicek, Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Speaker 1: Henri Isaac, ,
Speaker 2: Cécile Coudriou, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Guy Berger, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Can we defend concepts of universal freedom of expression concept online, despite national and political differences?

The ubiquity and universality of the Internet, linked to its genealogy deeply rooted into freedom of speech is appearing to be an issue regarding cultural and political gaps around the world.

This session will address important policy questions and operational responses including :
- How to balance freedom of expression and censorship in western democracies considering threats to social cohesion and national security?
- How to bridge culturally diverse perspectives on online freedom of expression around the world?
- How to bypass firewalls and technical censorship in authoritarian regimes?
- How to enhance transparency and freedom of information, to enable freedom of expression?

Format: 

Round Table - 90 Min

Interventions: 

- Cécile Coudriou, President of Amnesty International France (or other member of the worldwide NGO: TBC), will talk about the challenges of freedom of expression around the world, global or different issues according to the region or country.

- Jennyfer Chrétien, Delegate-General of Renaissance Numérique, will talk about laws against misinformation passed in different countries and how they can be instrumentalized by authorities or by specific communities.

- Guy Berger is Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO. He is responsible for the Organization’s global work on press freedom, safety of journalists, internet freedom, media pluralism and independence, gender and media, media and information literacy, and journalism education. He will present briefly some of the relevant UNESCO’s programs and point of views regarding the issues presented above.

Other speakers to be confirmed:
- Professor Alice Y. L. Lee. In Hong Kong, she is the vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Association of Media Education. She is Head of the Department of Journalism at the Hong Kong Baptist University.
- Alexandre Bianquini do Amaral. He is a student in Journalism, School of Communications and Arts at the Sao Paulo University. He is a member of the UNESCO group “Journalism, Law, Freedom”. His research topics include: human rights such as freedom of expression and privacy.
- Daniel Nwaeze. He is member of the Afrika Youth Movement. He works to change the African narrative and create impact through projects based learning for youths in media across Africa. He founded the information website www.diplomacyopp.com.

Diversity: 

The panel has been designed carefully keeping in mind gender parity and region diversity of individuals who work on these issues across the world with different cultures of regulation, approaches and experiences. Note that Renaissance Numerique is a stakeholder (member of steering committee) of the French Chapter of the IGF, but has not yet contributed to the global IGF.

The Internet mitigates some inqualities and allows a growing number of citizens to access information that we need in order to make informed choices as citizens, such as voting or calling corporations and governments to account. As knowledge is power, the Internet is often only environment that is able to give a voice and an ear to billions of people around the globe. This original conception of the Internet, and the principles on wich it was based, are increasingly under threat. Today, freedom of expression varies vastly around the world, dependent on cultural differences and political realities, from the constitutional significance given to free speech in the US, to China's "Great Firewall".

The Internet also varies according to technical access: freedom of expression is not the same when you have a 4G smartphone or if you need to walk a few hours to reach the first Internet cafe. Moreover, western democracies, worried about terrorist attacks, are slowly slipping into a generalized surveillance and censorship, through a compilation of maladjusted laws. The so-called problem of “fake news” is adding more complexity to the whole question about information circulation, and pushing governments to adopt hastily prepared laws. This new phenomenon is underlining the poor understanding of these issues by governments.
It’s also important to quote authoritarian regimes, which try to jugulate those newly open ways of expression, with firewalls and by tracking political opponents/web activists. Described by the Chinese activist Hu Jia as “invisible jails”, those new ways to control and shackle information without using violence are becoming a rising issue as more and more people inform themselves through the Internet and social medias platforms.

This session seeks to present the different angles of freedom of expression on the Internet and its issues around the world. It aims to challenge pillars of an universal freedom of expression on the Internet.
It seeks an open discussion from the participants on the following issues:
- What risks to freedom of expression are entailed by efforts to curb the flow of misinformation?
- How platform policies can shape freedom of expression?
- How could be balanced the power of governments between freedom and security on the Internet?
- How could political activists bypass technical censorship in authoritarian regimes?
- How could we enhance freedom of information?

Onsite Moderator: 

Nicolas Vanbremeersch will moderate the session. He is President of Le Tank Media, an incubator dedicated to new media projects

Online Moderator: 

Mike Fedida, Manager of the Seriously Project, Renaissance Numérique.

Rapporteur: 

Student(s) from Master's programme in Peace Studies at Paris-Dauphine University.

Discussion Facilitation: 

The session will start with a X-minute briefing by the moderator which captures the background and objectives of the discussions. He will also introduce the speakers to the audience. During this time, the moderator will inform that a survey is launched on Slido App to identify what are the most important proposals related to this issue. The result of the survey will be disclosed at the final of the session.

Then, each speaker (X) will have in average X minutes to present their views and projects trying to answer the different questions (cf. “Content of the session”).

Then, the moderator will open the Q&A session online and offline and select the top online questions and feedbacks during X minutes. The moderator will select the appropriate speaker to answer each specific question in a balanced way, expect for questions addressed personally.

The last X minutes will serve to make a global overview of the discussion and the most relevant points discussed by speakers and participants. To conclude, the moderator will announce the results of the Slido survey.

Online Participation: 

Renaissance Numérique and the co-organizers will set up online participation tools:
- The co-organizers will relay the event on their respective communication tools, so as to create engagement with the event.
- On social networks: relevant hashtags on Twitter (#IGF2018 and #FreedomOfExpression), Facebook Live. During talks, a dedicated person will be in charge of both facilitating the visibility of the event and sharing the questions on Twitter.
- Using Slido App, an audience interaction platform designed for events. It allows organizers to crowdsource top questions and get instant feedback via live polls. This app will notably serve to identify the proposals and most relevant points for the participants during the open discussion session. These proposals will be promoted by the civil society after the event.

Renaissance Numérique and the co-organizers will also give the floor to the audience participating. A microphone will be circulating in the room by two persons. The moderator will alternate the debate between speakers and participants to facilitate the interactivity and dynamism of the exchanges.