Universal human rights reaffirmed at WSIS+10 Review Event

Freedom of expression and media development emerged as key issues when around 1500 representatives of governments, the private sector and civil society from 130 countries gathered at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 25 to 27 February. The occasion was a review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10) ten years after the first WSIS in Geneva.

The Programme included a dozen sessions devoted to media, and the Final Statement, adopted in the closing session of the conference, recommends that all stakeholders “further promote universal access to information and knowledge with due respect for free flow of information”.

During WSIS+10, UNESCO called for feedback on a new concept of “Internet Universality”. Far-reaching in scope, “Internet Universality” encompasses a free, rights-based, open and accessible Internet, and could serve as a framework for the full range of the Organization’s Internet-related work in education, culture, science and communication-information. UNESCO welcomes input in the development of this concept.

Freedom of expression, as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was recognized during WSIS+10 as particularly important for progress towards inclusive knowledge societies. Throughout the conference and in the Final Statement, participants reaffirmed that freedom of expression off-line applies on-line.

As a necessary pre-condition for freedom of expression, participants called for increased safety for online journalists, bloggers and human rights activists, which was the focus of a UNESCO session on the Digital Safety of Journalists.

Digital safety plays a prominent role in the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and will be a focus of this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

Across sessions, Media and Information Literacy was recognized as fundamental for empowering individuals in the knowledge society, from giving them a voice to express opinion, to protecting their Internet privacy and developing a critical attitude toward information.

Developments and trends across the media environment were addressed in a session devoted to WSIS Action Line 9, titled “Exploring the Evolving Mediascape”. The discussion focused on a Report written by Ms Divina Frau-Meigs, Professor at Sorbonne Nouvelle University, and it underlined the importance of media pluralism and diversity.

Recommendations of the media sessions will inform UNESCO’s work going ahead, and discussions on the concept of Internet Universality will continue at the WSIS Forum in May in Geneva and the 8th Internet Governance Forum in Bali in October 2013.

Recommendations from WSIS+10 will inform UNESCO’s work going ahead, and discussions on the concept of Internet Universality will continue at the WSIS Forum.

Summaries of the media sessions at WSIS+10 are available below: