The International Conference on "Social Media: Challenges and Ways to Promote Freedoms and Protect Activists", concluded its activities in Doha on Monday and issued its recommendations after two days of rich and fruitful discussions.
The recommendations drew attention to cybercrime, hate speech and the methods used to spread these not-good concepts, as well as the existence of unclear and vague laws in some countries that do not clearly know these crimes, as well as some penalties inconsistent with those crimes.
The recommendations demanded that laws define content, be transparent, and that measures be able to control this content, and the importance of evaluating these procedures periodically, with interventions based on consultations involving all stakeholders.
It also called for respecting the right to compensation, and that the right to resort to the courts must be safeguarded, and that information be available on the right of some companies to delete or block content on the Internet, and called on governments to remove defamation and that all of this be safeguarded by the laws.
The recommendations called on states to ensure that there are no restrictions on freedom of expression, and that any kind of obstruction of this speech should be criminalised, and that this be clear in law, especially if the speech is incitement to violence, which requires content filtering, when it is sometimes inconsistent with the right to privacy, it constitutes a form of repression.
The recommendations called for the necessity of promoting human rights under the Paris Principles to ensure that the organisations concerned are not subject to the threat, including activities on the Internet, in addition to the recommendation that social media companies implement the human rights law as a reference to protect the civil right.
His Excellency (H.E.) Chairman of the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) Dr. Ali bin Smaikh Al Marri expressed in the closing session many thanks to the participants in all the activities that the conference celebrated during the two days.
His Excellency also expressed his confidence that these discussions serve the main objective of the conference, which is to support and protect activists and social media leaders, and to expand the civil space, noting that activists and organisations and victims across the world view this conference as a real breakthrough towards achieving freedoms and protecting activists.
His Excellency underlined efforts to consult with partners to develop an implementation plan and a mechanism to activate the results and recommendations of the conference, and put it on the agendas and programs of international platforms.
H.E. Al Marri recalled the victims of conflicts around the world, and said that everyone should be a voice for them in all international forums, and said that the NHRC, through its initiative to organise this conference, looks forward to more coordination and work with its partners, despite the deterioration of human rights principles.
His Excellency added that the Arab human rights movement has been affected since 2011, and such conferences are an opportunity to bring together Arab activists and organisations with their counterparts in Europe, America, Africa and Asia, in order to activate the Arab human rights movement, and restore a sparkle of hope in order to ensure effective Arab human rights work, ensuring the human dignity of individuals.
For his part, Vice-Chair of the Delegation for Relations with the Arab Peninsula in the European Parliament, Marc Tarabella, in his speech at the closing session, thanked the NHRC for organising this conference in Doha.
He affirmed the keenness of all participants to maintain the basic discussed principles.
Tarabella said that the European Union will be present in this initiative. He asked about the extent to which governments must maintain dignity and human security, and said that this is done through a balance between freedom of expression and human rights, and he considered that social media is very important to civil society, and led to political and social changes around the world, noting that the world faces many challenges, especially with regard to the content of hatred and fabricated news, stressing that the international community has a lot to ensure freedom of expression for all.
As for the Chairman of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) Carlos Negret Mosquera, he talked about the challenges and the future of human rights in the digital space, and said that the NHRC, by organising this conference, exceeded all expectations.
The General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Anthony Bellanger, hailed the work of the conference and the recommendations that resulted from it, calling for the follow-up of its implementation. He said that the challenges of social media are increasing every day, and young people must have the right skills to deal with technology to produce the best jobs. He explained that the social media challenges have made journalists more patient in producing content and adhering to the standards and controls that protect the nature of their work.
For her part, the Director Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, Georgette Gagnon praised the comprehensive conclusions that emerged from the conference, which she request commitment to follow up on its implementation.
She said that the Committee is waiting to work with all partners, whether governmental or human rights organisations, with major social media companies and the rest of the parties in order to push the discussions to the highest level, and to suggest measures that would regulate and enhance the digital space in line with international laws and the contents of human rights.
More than 250 governmental and non-governmental organisations, human rights activists, media and technology workers, human rights mechanisms and human rights organisations at the national level participated in the conference, where the opportunities provided by social media to promote human rights were highlighted, and discussed interventions that occur when using these means and the need to address abuse and restrictions on free space and obstacles placed in front of these platforms to impede free speech.
The conference also touched on hate speech and how these methods sometimes contribute to incitement, spreading hate and targeting minorities.
The participants expressed their thanks and gratitude to Qatar and the National Human Rights Committee for organising this important conference, and stressed the need to adhere to these principles in order to enhance freedoms and to protect internet activists.
Image credit: Wajdi Zaghouani
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