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‘Protect activists, ensure freedom of speech’

‘Protect activists, ensure freedom of speech’

Ashraf Siddiqui
Doha
The International Conference on “Social Media: Challenges and Ways to Support Freedom and Protect Activists” concluded on Monday, with a call for safeguarding the rights of social media activists, ensuring freedom of speech and putting in place measures to prevent spread of hate speech.
After two days of discussions and deliberations, the conference issued a slew of recommendations.
The recommendations drew attention to cybercrime, hate speech and the methods used to spread them, as well as the existence of unclear and vague laws in some countries that do not clearly know these crimes, and some penalties that are inconsistent with those crimes.
The recommendations demanded that there should be laws to define the content, be transparent, and that measures should be able to regulate the content and the procedures should be reviewed periodically, with interventions based on consultations involving all stakeholders. It also called for respecting the right to compensation, and that the right to resort to the courts must be safeguarded. There should be information on the right of companies to delete or block content on the Internet and the recommendations called on governments to remove defamation demanding that all of this be safeguarded by laws.
The recommendations called on states to ensure that there are no restrictions on freedom of expression, and obstruction to freedom of speech should be criminalised.
The recommendations called for the necessity of promoting human rights under the Paris Principles to ensure that the organisations concerned are not subject to the threat, including activities on the Internet, in addition to the recommendation that social media companies implement the human rights law as a reference to protect the civil right.
National Human Rights Committee Chairman Dr Ali bin Smaikh al Marri expressed his confidence that discussions will serve the main objectives of the conference, which is to support and protect activists and social media leaders, and to expand the civic space.
Dr Marri underlined the efforts to consult with partners to develop an implementation plan and a mechanism to activate the results and recommendations of the conference, and put it on the agendas and programmes of international platforms.
He recalled the victims of conflicts around the world, and said that everyone should be a voice for them in all international forums.
He said the NHRC, through its initiative to organize the conference, looks forward to more coordination and work with its partners, despite the deterioration of human rights principles.
For his part, Vice-Chair of the Delegation for Relations with the Arab Peninsula in the European Parliament, Marc Tarabella, thanked the NHRC for organising this conference in Doha.
Tarabella said the European Union will be present in this initiative. He considered that social media is very important to civil society, and led to political and social changes around the world. The world faces many challenges, especially with regard to the content of hatred and fabricated news, stressing that the international community has a lot to do ensure freedom of expression for all, he added.
More than 250 governmental and non-governmental organizations, human rights activists, media and technology workers, human rights mechanisms and human rights organisations at the national level participated in the conference, where the opportunities provided by social media to promote human rights were highlighted, and discussed interventions that occur when using these means and the need to address abuse and restrictions on free space and obstacles placed in front of these platforms to impede free speech.