Human rights on the internet refers to how states control what citizens can access online.
This past Friday, a resolution entitled “The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet” was adopted by the United Nations when more than 70 states supported it.
Under the resolution, states are bound to refrain from “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online”.
South Africa along with 15 other nations, supported an alliance spearheaded by Russia and China to remove this provision from the resolution. This would give countries the right to switch off the Internet for any reason, such as during an election or in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
Andrew Smith, legal officer at NGO Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, joins Pippa Hudson on the line from London.
Smith says South Africa's stance is very worrying.
We are concerned that South Africa, which has one of the strongest constitutions in the world, arguably on freedom of expression and non-discrimination, were taking this stance in this important debate.— Andrew Smith, legal officer, Article 19
South Africa took questionable positions on other issues too, says Smith.
Not just on internet and human rights, but on other issues at the Human Rights Council, of civil society space, on the protection of lesbian, gay and transsexual people, it also took a negative position.— Andrew Smith, legal officer, Article 19
The resolution was passed however, and the amendment lobby was unsuccessful. So while human rights resolutions are political commitments, different from treaties, it does require South Africa to abide by this commitment on these issues.
Listen to the entire conversation below: