Internet Governance Forum

(12-15 November 2007,Rio de Janeiro)

Dirk Voorhoof
Council of Europe Expert
Professor at Gand University (Belgium) and Copenhagen University (Denmark)

There are two good reasons why the Council of Europe is participating in the discussions on the Internet Governance Forum.

The first reason is that we have succeeded in Europe to build up a very far-reaching level of freedom of expression, and that is guaranteed by an article in the European Convention on Human Rights which promotes, which guarantees, freedom of expression, regardless of frontiers, without interference by authorities.

A second argument why we are here is that it’s not only on paper that this freedom of expression exists, in a treaty, but also that in practice that national states have to apply this convention and, if need be, victims of a violation of their freedom of expression have access to a supranational court in Strasbourg - the European Court of Human Rights – which finally can determine whether they have been a victim in their own country of a violation of human rights. And especially with regard to freedom of expression, this human rights court has made clear how important freedom of expression is in a democracy - to seek, to receive, to express information, but also to balance it with other rights: rights of others, such as the protection of minors, incitement to racism or intolerance. And I think that can be the added value that we offer at the Council of Europe and the European Convention in this debate on freedom of expression and its limits.