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Brussels, 9 November 2012
Joint Statement of the EU Delegation to the 7th International Governance Forum (IGF) in Baku
EU delegation - Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes and Members of the European Parliament Pilar Del Castillo, AmeliaAndersdotter, Marietje Schaake, CatherineTrautmann, Sabine Verheyen issued the following statement:
Internet and new technologies play an exponentially important role in the lives of citizens globally. In this respect, the EU is committed to uphold respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as reflected in the European "acquis", in all its internal and external actions.
We welcome the focus of this year's Internet Governance Forum (IGF) agenda on human rights. As a community of values, the EU is a place of fundamental rights that we treasure, protect and assure for our citizens, both offline and online. Similarly the internet is not just a technology or a digital market space. The internet is a truly public place that enables a new frontier of freedom, and serves as a tool to exercise this freedom.
While we are grateful for the warm welcome extended by the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of this 7th IGF, we have a number of concerns about fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan.
Internet access on its own is no guarantee of full freedom of expression. We are extremely concerned about numerous testimonies during IGF workshops on violations of basic human rights in Azerbaijan. We deplore the many arbitrary restrictions on media, both online and offline. We see the exercise of free speech effectively criminalised. We see violent attacks on journalists. And we see activists spied on online, violating the privacy of journalists and their sources. We condemn that the intimidation of political activists has even continued within the conference premises of the 7th IGF.
Restrictions on fundamental freedoms, of whatever kind, and wherever they take place, are unacceptable. This applies within EU borders and globally. We call on the political leaders of Azerbaijan to immediately adhere to the standards of the Council of Europe, to which it has committed as a Member. We also invite the political leaders of Azerbaijan to ensure respect and protection of human rights and fundamental rights, particularly freedom of speech, the rule of law, freedom of assembly as well as political diversity and media pluralism.
We embrace the vitality of the multi-stakeholder process encapsulated in the IGF, which enshrines European values into internet governance. We view the IGF as the embodiment of successful multi-stakeholder model of internet governance and wish for it to continue in this role. We are committed to improving multi-stakeholder process in order to preserve the open and unrestricted nature of the internet, which is the key condition for its successful development and vesting enabling potential for citizens and societies all over the world.
However, to ensure this, concerns about operational issues at IGF 2012 need to be addressed for future gatherings. These concerns include: ongoing lack of a UN General Secretary Special Advisor, restrictions on distribution of materials by registered IGF participants, and under-representation of civil society organisations.
At the same time we welcome the special attention paid to the topic of “enhanced cooperation” by the IGF community. We call for a more thorough analysis of the current internet ecosystem in terms of processes, mechanisms, and fora through which public authorities on equal footing (also with other stakeholders) can already operationalize enhanced cooperation activities.