The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media spoke at the seventh UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF), in Baku.
She said that safety of journalists, bloggers and media activists is one of the main challenges to both a free press and freedom of expression on the Internet.
Dunja Mijatović, who was addressing a session on the safety of online media workers jointly organized by her Office, the Council of Europe, the European Broadcasting Union and several governments and NGOs, underlined that online journalists and media workers face very similar challenges to their colleagues working offline. “The ultimate means governments and authorities choose to silence journalists have not much changed. Online activists are under surveillance, threatened, jailed, and prosecuted. Intimidation and discrediting tactics are powerful weapons in restricting freedom of expression offline and online,” she stressed.
Mijatović also spoke at a panel on key challenges to freedom of expression, organized at the IGF by Freedom House on 8 November.
She emphasized the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution on human rights on the Internet as a landmark document which stipulates that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice”.
“The Internet is not immune from censorship and not free by nature, except by design and law,” Mijatović said. “Governments should keep this in mind when adopting regulation for the Internet that might have – perhaps unintended – consequences for human rights.”
Mijatović also underlined the need for the international community to continue joining forces and speaking with one voice when addressing issues related to a free Internet and safe working environments for online and offline journalists.