Media - Freedom of expression and information

 Committee of experts on protection of journalism and safety of journalists (MSI-JO)

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Strasbourg, 14 February 2011

MC-S-CI (2011)009
English only





3rd meeting
21 and 22 February 2011
Room G.04


Committee of Ministers Recommendation to member states on principles of international commitments to protect and promote Internet’s universality, integrity and openness


1. The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve ever closer union among its members.
2. The states Parties to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention on Human Rights – ETS No. 5) have undertaken to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the human rights and fundamental freedoms defined in the Convention. They have particular roles and responsibilities to secure the protection and promotion of these rights and freedoms and can be held to account for the rights involved before the European Court of Human Rights.
3. The right to freedom of expression is central to individual autonomy and self-determination and indispensable for providing citizens with information that is necessary for representative self-government, deliberation about issues of public concern and participation in democratic processes. This right applies regardless of frontiers and to both online and offline activities.
4. The Internet enables people to have access to information, project salience for issues of public concern, engage in political speech and decision-making. Through mutual communication and influence they participate individually and collectively in shaping cultural meanings and values and in creating a vibrant public sphere of opinion and knowledge. In the age of Internet, the right to freedom of expression and access to information is crucial not only for participatory democracy but also for democratic culture.
5. In the information society, the values that underpin freedom of expression (the individual freedom to have access to information, form and express opinions, the ability of individuals and groups to share views, the promotion and dissemination of information and freedom of the media) depend on actions related to Internet’s infrastructure and critical resources, decisions on information technology design, legislative regulations (governmental action), the emergence of new business models and services as well as the decentralisation of information production and dissemination. These issues concern multiple stakeholders, including technologists, the private sector, governments and civil society organisations and are international in scope.
6. In particular, users’ capacity to access and use the Internet is exposed to risks of disruptions of the stable and ongoing functioning of the network due to technical failure and is vulnerable to other acts of interference with the infrastructure of the Internet. The question of Internet’s stability and resilience is intrinsically related to the cross-border interconnectedness and interdependencies of its infrastructure. Actions that take place in one jurisdiction may affect the ability of users to have access to information in another.
7. Moreover, decisions taken in the context of the technical coordination and management of resources that are critical for the functioning of the Internet, notably domain names and Internet protocol addresses, may have a direct bearing on users’ access to information and protection of personal data. These resources are distributed in different jurisdictions and are managed by various transnational entities, without a common governance approach and without basic constraints on the protection of human rights.
8. Against this background, the protection of freedom of expression and access to information on the Internet as well as the promotion of the public service value of the Internet are subsumed within a larger set of concerns about how to ensure Internet’s universality, integrity and openness.
9. All stakeholders involved in its management and public policy for the Internet share the responsibility to ensure the delivery of the public service value of the Internet to all. States as bearers of the duty to ensure the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms have the primary responsibility to preserve the public interest in international Internet-related public policy.
10. States have a mutual expectation that fellow members of the international community will make their best efforts to preserve and promote the public service value of the Internet. They should acknowledge the shared and reciprocal responsibility to take reasonable measures to preserve the universality, integrity and openness of the Internet as a means of safeguarding freedom of expression and information regardless of frontiers and subscribe to relevant international commitments.
11. Therefore, the Committee of Ministers recommends to member states:

    - to commit to protect and promote the universality, integrity and openness of the Internet in accordance with the principles included in the appendix to this recommendation and ensure that they are reflected in practice and law;
    - ensure the broad dissemination of the appendix to all persons, public authorities, private entities, in particular those dealing with the management of resources that are critical for the functioning of the Internet as well as civil society organisations;
    - encourage such actors to support and promote the implementation of the principles included in the appendix.

Appendix to Recommendation

1. General principles

1.1. Multi-stakeholder partnerships

1.1.1 States acknowledge the leading role of the private sector to preserve and further develop the Internet and the fundamental role of civil society to promote the protection human rights and fundamental freedoms in the online environment, as well as develop and implement Internet-related public policy.
1.1.2 States should create an enabling and collaborative environment for the private sector and civil society to play their roles and should forge partnerships among all actors.
1.1.3 In international Internet-related public policy, states are guided by principles of Internet governance which affirm:

    - the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and respect for democracy and rule of law;
    - multi-stakeholder participation;
    - the universality of the Internet;
    - the stability, resilience and robustness of the Internet;
    - empowerment of Internet users;
    - preservation of Internet’s architecture;
    - network neutrality;
    - the promotion of innovation;
    - inclusive participation;
    - the promotion cultural and linguistic diversity;
    - private sector leadership in the operation and administration of the Internet;
    - state responsibility for Internet-related public policies.

1.2. Cooperation

    1.2.1 States should cooperate in good faith at all stages of developing and implementing Internet-related public policies which may have a transboundary impact on the Internet’s ongoing functioning and universality in fellow members of the international community.

    1.2.2. In particular, states should strengthen their bilateral, regional and international cooperation for the creation of conditions conducive to the universality, integrity and openness of the Internet, notably through facilitating inter-state dialogue on public policy issues and reinforcing partnerships with and among the private sector and civil society.

2. Internet disruptions and interferences

2.1. Due diligence commitments on prevention, management and response

    2.1.1 States should, in cooperation with each other and with all relevant stakeholders, take all reasonable measures to prevent, manage and respond to significant transboundary disruption of and interference with the stability, resilience and robustness of the Internet, or at any event minimise the risk and consequences thereof.

    2.1.2. States should develop, within the limits of non-involvement in the operational issues and ordinary administration of Internet activities, reasonable legislative, administrative or other measures as appropriate, including the establishment of suitable monitoring mechanisms, to implement their commitments regarding the stability, robustness and resilience of the Internet.

    2.1.3. With the objective of ensuring accountability in respect of adverse consequences on the Internet’s stability, resilience and robustness, states should engage in dialogue and cooperate to the further development of international law relating to the responsibility and liability for the assessment of and compensation for damage as well as the settlement of related disputes.

2.2. Standards and best practices

    States should co-operate with a view to support the development and implementation of common standards, rules or practices as well as the establishment of cooperation and multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms aimed at preserving and strengthening the stability, robustness and resilience of the Internet.

2.3. Information sharing and notification

    States should create an environment that facilitates information sharing among stakeholders in respect of activities involving risk of causing significant transboundary disruption to or interferences with the stability and resilience of Internet resources. In particular states should take all reasonable measures to provide prior and timely notification and relevant information to states that may be potentially affected.

2.4. Coordinated management and response

    States should co-ordinate their emergency and incident response policies, provide notification of an emergency and exchange relevant information without delay as well as engage in consultations with a view to achieving mutually acceptable solutions regarding measures to be adopted to respond to significant transboundary disruption of or interference with the stability, robustness and resilience of Internet.

2.5. Mutual assistance

    As appropriate and with due regard to their capabilities, states should in good faith, offer their assistance to other affected states with a view to mitigate the adverse effects or consequences of disruptions of or interferences with the stability, robustness and resilience of the Internet.

3. Transnational management of resources that are critical for functioning of the Internet

    3.1. States should take all appropriate measures to ensure that the development and application of standards, policies, procedures or practices in connection with the management of resources that are critical for the functioning of the Internet incorporate protections for human rights and fundamental freedoms of Internet users in compliance with the standards recognised in international human rights law.
    3.2. In particular, states should engage in a structured dialogue with a view to identify appropriate responses to specific issues that may arise in respect of the management of resources that are critical for the functioning of the Internet.


This document will not be distributed at the meeting. Please bring this copy.
Ce document ne sera pas distribué en réunion. Prière de vous munir de cet exemplaire.