Press Statement by the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus on Censorship (SOPA/PIPA/IGR)

We have made a decision to join the black out in protest of the arbitrary censorship of the internet which violates people’s rights to responsibly use the internet. We note with increasing concern the the various censorship mechanisms around the world including but not limited to India’s Intermediary Guideline Rules (IGR) nor the United States of America’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)and Protect IP Act (PIPA).

Any country’s censorship mechanisms affect ordinary internet users all over the world.

We note that Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and urge governments who have ratified the ICCPR to abide by their commitments. Whilst freedom of expression has limitations, these limitations are on the verge of being extended to accommodate assault on freedom of expression and the openness of the internet.

Whilst the exception has been provided for it does not mean that it can be abused. For jurisdictions which have legitimate governments where people can truly have their say in the laws that their legislators dish out or choose their representatives to Parliament or Congress, it is critical that even more so, civil society is seen to make a stand.

We have observed with great concern threats to freedom of expression on countries such as Republique Democratique du Congo, China and Syria.

We have watched with joy as Burma continues to relax its censorship of online content. Countries can mature in aspects of freedom of expression and it takes awareness, outreach and dialogue. For a country like the USA to pass SOPA or PIPA as law at the expense of freedom of expression is a realisation that the assault on freedom of expression does not know borders. We stand with civil society organisations in the United States of America and abroad who are collectively raising their voice against the SOPA and PIPA.

We urge all stakeholders of internet governance to encourage dialogue to help governments, members of the private sector and civil society to engage in dialogue to discuss how we can preserve the openness of the internet.

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