United Nations: Internet access a human right; Philippines to stifle it

The United Nations Human Rights Council published a Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In a nutshell, the report says Internet access is a ‘fundamental’ human right.

GMA News says:

“In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges states to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws,” he said.

La Rue also said he is deeply concerned that websites of human rights organizations, critical bloggers, and other individuals or organizations that disseminate information that is embarrassing to the State or the powerful have increasingly become targets of cyber-attacks.

“When a cyber-attack can be attributed to the State, it clearly constitutes, inter alia, a violation of its obligation to respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Although determining the origin of cyber-attacks and the identity of the perpetrator is often technically difficult, it should be noted that states have an obligation to protect individuals against interference by third parties that undermines the enjoyment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression,” he said.

The Philippine House of Representatives is preparing House Bill 383 on “Cybercrime Prevention Act”, which includes provision for Internet libel. The Cybercrime bill is led by former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo. The Philippine Star quoted Taguig City Rep. Sigfrido Tinga who said, “while the bill recognizes freedom of expression, it has to be within the confines of what is acceptable.”

The criminalization of libel is often seen as stifling freedom of expression. The passage of the Philippine Cybercrime act that includes defamation will have similar effect.

The Philippine Cybercrime Act is a clear and present danger to freedom of expression.

As OS News points out no formal treaty has been made with regard to Internet rights.

Image credit: XKCD, some rights reserved

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • Ah, so the gears have been set and are moving. I think most politcians would agree to the passage of this bill, in order to preserve their political careers. And with this bill being initiated by GMA…why am I not surprised? Since the first day that she has stepped down from being the president, she has made some maneuvers to be able to protect herself from being made accountable. She’s playing a game of chess and the pieces are already moving.

    • UP nn grad

      At least GMA is there to resist NBI/PNP and Military’s wish to weaken existing laws relating to surveillance. GMA insists that the police / military, has to first get appropriate levels of approval approval before they can tap into de Quiros’, Mikey Arroyo’s, cocoy’s or another person’s telephone calls or internet-activities

      • UP nn grad

        And because of GMA, the Pilipinas Supreme Court has put to paper that each and every Pinoy citizen is protected from PNP, NBI, DSWD, DOTC and any other agency of The Government from doing witch hunts on them. Witch hunt — “I, your President, know that you are guilty. Since you are guilty and it takes harrd evidence to convict you, then we’ll take care of the extra step — I, the President, will use the Mechanisms-of-the-State to find the evidence that will prove your guilt. What am I in power for?”

  • If Internet as a human right is anchored on freedom of expression, shouldn’t the Declaration of Human Rights and our adoption of it (Art. 3, 1987 Constitution) be sufficient to assert it here? Also, I have serious doubts as to the legality and constitutionality of House Bill 383, as the description of cyberdefamation is virtually (pardon the pun) the same as libel on print medium, but specific to the internet and with a much higher penalty. Given its authors, it seems to me that they’re just trying to legislate a way to sue bloggers for criticizing GMA and her ilk, and to sue them for much more than they could recover by simply charging them for libel under the RPC.

    • UP nn grad

      raggster: that some words are written in 1987 Constitution is not enough. Needed will either be an enabling law (e.g. this nonsense of “. Constitution says — no political dynasties”) or a Pilipinas Supreme Court decision that “enables” the constitutional rights.

      I agree with you that 1987 Constitution probably supports Pilipinas media against libel suits. Unfortunately, the media folds and surrenders too soon (in other words, the media does not want to spend the money to argue the constitutionality-issues before Pilipinas Supreme Court). Not a single Pinoy-in-Pinas wants to be the Larry Flynt to bring “freedom of expression” before Pilipinas Supreme Court.

      At least, GMA was man enough — she did not flee to Spain nor anywhere. She stood up to Presi-Noynoy orchestrating his EO-1 Truth Commission witch hunt. Net result is Pilipinas Supreme Court limiting the power of the State to go on witch hunts against an individual.

    • Cocoy

      Well, no one seems to think that the Internet is freedom of expression and free speech. I think what the UN is trying to say is that: what we do online *is* the same as free speech and free expression, so it does fall on the declaration of human rights.

      On the whole Cybercrime, well being constitutional or not, it has a partnering bill in the Senate. If memory serves me correctly there are two initiatives in the senate for cyber defamation. First the angara bill which is the senate version of 383. And there’s one by Villar, which focuses mostly on cyberdefamation.

      *my* fear is that no one blocks this move to write a cyber defamation law. No one cares and everyone turns a blind eye and one day, it just gets passed.

      And yes, the cyberdefamation is like print only on the Internet. I don’t think people realize that cyberdefamation is far, far worst than filtering or setting up a great wall because then we don’t have free speech.

      That said, we do need a cybercrime legislation but not the kind that GMA wants.

    • UP nn grad

      raggster: The CBCP-bishop or INC-honcho who agrees “… you can’t cyber-defame a man of the cloth” or the Pilipinas lawmaker who agrees with “… you can’t cyber-defame any Pilipinas lawmaker” will fall in line with this law which automatically means “…. you can’t cyber-defame GMA”. And if there is such a law that will send ManuelB to jail if he tries “….cyber-defame GMA”, that same law would also say sharrap-or-else to anyone thinking to “…..cyber-defame Kris Aquino” or any of the Aquino bloodline.

      So do you think Lacierda/Ochoa thinks the law may be useful?

      • UP nn grad

        The middle-class and the lower-middle class should, every once, consider the thought that the politicians they trust would actually sell out if selling out is to protect the interest of them politicians. This is as simple an exhibition of “self-preservation” as one can think of. Ignore it // be lazy about it — and the politicians will protect the GMA you all so want to skewer and be found guilty of something because protecting GMA is a small price to pay in the altar of self-preservation. . Freedom-of-Information puts at risk any and all government decision-makers, including… ahem ahem ahem, Presi-Noynoy and his direct reports.