In a sign of the times, as well as the entrenchment of the internet in nearly every aspect of life, the United Nations passed a resolution declaring online access as nothing less than a human right.
Various nations – many known for their tight control on all kinds of freedom of expression – vigorously opposed the resolution. These included Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia, South Africa, India and Indonesia, who rejected the resolution’s support for the “promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet.”
Possibly not coincidentally, some of the countries objecting to the resolution are also among the nations with the worst records of human rights abuses.
The resolution, which passed with little fanfare last Friday, calls for the release of people who have been jailed for expressing certain ideas online. It now will be adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Strong supporters of the resolution include the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Senegal and Turkey, according to various published reports, including Tech Central.
“We are disappointed that democracies like South Africa, Indonesia and India voted in favor of these hostile amendments to weaken protections for freedom of expression online,” said Thomas Hughes, executive director of the global free press group Article 19.
“A human rights-based approach to providing and expanding internet access, based on states’ existing international human rights obligations, is essential to achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and no state should be seeking to slow this down,” Hughes added.
The resolution also included provisions calling for investigations on attacks against bloggers and other internet activists and an end to blocking access to the internet during such things as elections and terrorist attacks, the reports said.
Some nations attempted to include amendments to the resolution that that would have removed the parts protecting freedom of expression and disallowing cutting off internet access. The effort failed, however.
Independent watchdog organization Freedom House lists Cuba, China and Russia among nations with some of the most restrictrd internet access in the world.
“Over the past year, the Cuban government has opened over 100 new internet access points, permitted the first public Wi-Fi and reduced prices and increased speeds for internet access at state-run cybercafes,” said a Freedom House report from last year. “Despite these notable advances, Cuba continues to have some of the most restrictive internet access in the world.”
Freedom House noted that while Cuba has made strides since it normalized relations with the United States at the end of 2014, it still keeps tight reins on its citizens’ access to and use of technology.
At the same time, many Cubans – earning $20 to $30 per month – still cannot afford the internet. What is more, the Cuban government prohibits home internet connections.
As for Venezuela, Freedom House notes that internet access in the oil-rich nation is in peril, especially under the government of President Nicolás Maduro. In fact, Venezuela has the slowest internet connections in the region next to Cuba.
The Maduro regime has cracked down on media organizations, and that has extended to social media users who are perceived to be disruptive to the “public peace,” Freedom House reported.
The government blocked more than 1,000 websites, including news sites, between November 2013 and October 2014.