Assessing Freedom of Expression in South Asia

From 2 to 4 November 2011, the Internet Democracy Project, in collaboration with Point of View (India), the Centre for Policy Alternatives (Sri Lanka) and Global Partners and Associates (UK) will be organising a South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression in Kathmandu, Nepal.

In June 2011, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Mr. Frank La Rue, submitted to the UN Human Rights Council his report on the Internet and Freedom of Expression. This meeting seeks to promote a shared understanding among participants of what constitutes compliance with Mr. La Rue’s recommendations, and to contribute to a focused analysis of the recommendations and what needs to be done to implement them in our national contexts in South Asia. It also hopes to provide a space to share experiences about threats to freedom of expression in the countries in the region and about challenges to implementing the recommendations. Finally, it aims to facilitate the cross-fertilisation of ideas and experience concerning tactics for implementing recommendations (the agenda of the meeting can be accessed here).

Our intention is to make this a very interactive gathering, with a lot of small group work, and very outcome-oriented. The meeting thus will not be so much a seminar as a workshop, where we are hoping for the active and in-depth involvement of all participants throughout. For this reason, meeting participation is by invitation only and restricted to about twenty five individuals whose past and current work, we believe, indicates a clear interest in and concern for the challenges that the Internet poses to freedom of expression. Delegates will be joining us from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as the UK. In addition, we are extremely delighted that Mr. La Rue himself will be joining us as well (a list of participants can be accessed here).

So far, collaboration on Internet governance issues among South Asian civil society has remained extremely limited. It is our hope that the meeting will lead to concrete ideas for strategies, and perhaps even collaborations, to combat the challenges freedom of expression online is facing in all South Asian countries. We hope that it will also be the beginning of a broader South Asian civil society network on these issues.

The meeting takes forward the work started in the first South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression, organised by the Centre for Internet and Society (India) and DEMOS (Guatemala) in Delhi, in March 2011. That Delhi meeting was part of the global consultations that fed into Frank La Rue’s Internet and Freedom of Expression Report.

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