News Archives

Internet Freedom and Responsibility

Thank you very much for inviting me. I’d like to thank Access for organizing this conference and especially Brett Solomon, who has worked so hard to make it a hub for thoughtful exchange and discussion.

And I’d like to thank the many other friends here today who have helped map out how socially responsible companies can respect people’s fundamental freedoms online.

Today we face a series of challenges at the intersection of human rights, connective technologies, business and government. It’s a busy intersection and a lot of people want to put up traffic lights. In the next few minutes I want to help frame the challenges we face, and offer practical suggestions on the role of companies and how we can best work together to preserve Internet freedom.

First, a word about the challenges.

Almost every day, we see new examples of the power of connection technologies – the transformative power, and the disruptive power. Entire industries have been upended, starting with Old Media. In a single decade, new technologies have decimated traditional newsrooms and killed their business model, but given rise to literally millions of citizen bloggers and citizen filmmakers and a new global journalism outlet called You Tube. All in one decade.

Today we have tens of thousands of people armed with cell-phone cameras and video, documenting what is happening on the streets of the Middle East. Some can upload it within minutes. Others have to smuggle it out in places like Syria. But the truth is getting out.

And yet, these amazing technologies haven’t made it any safer to do reporting in these hard places – or for human rights activists to talk to one another.

The Arab spring brought home the power of the Internet to governments far beyond the Middle East, and the result has been more censorship, more surveillance and more restrictions.

Repressive governments used to set up firewalls at Internet Exchange Points to block external content they disliked. Now they’re using bots to delete posts and block emails in something approaching real time. They’re using surreptitious deep-packet inspection and sophisticated key-logger software to track what their citizens do online. They are exerting overbroad state control over content, over users, and over companies. And they’re trying to change national and international legal standards to legitimize it all.

Let me give you one example. Last month in New York the governments of China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan came to the UN to suggest the need for an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security.” This would shift cyberspace away from being a multi-stakeholder, people-driven model – to a system dominated by centralized government control. Not a good idea.

An online world where more and more countries begin policing content for ideological correctness – whether they call it a Halal Internet or a hate-free Internet – would extinguish the promise of technology to drive global understanding and the free exchange of information, ideas, and innovation.

So my first message to you is that the Internet space – which has seemed so open and free – could become less so. We are up against an ever more sophisticated range of technical, legal, and political challenges to freedom in cyberspace. Secretary Clinton has called the Internet the town square of the 21st Century. The Obama administration has staked out a principled stand on Internet freedom, arguing that the fundamental freedoms apply online just as they do offline. That includes the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

I also want to say a word about the protection of intellectual property, which is sometimes seen as in conflict with Internet freedom. Even though it may be more difficult to enforce these rights in the Digital Age, as authors, artists and inventors are discovering, they are protected by international law. You don’t have the right to break into a movie theater and steal the film reels and you don’t have the right to steal movies online, either.

Before I joined the Obama administration, I spent most of my career in the NGO world, where for years I argued – you might say self-servingly – that progress on human rights is rarely generated by governments alone. Now from my perch inside government, it is even clearer to me that government can’t do it alone – and shouldn’t.

To advance these fundamental freedoms, we need the help of citizens, corporations and global civil society for what is likely to be a long, tough struggle with regimes that do not share our values or our views on the merits of openness. And I particularly want to call attention to the role of companies, because today corporations have more global influence than ever.

If Wal-Mart were a country, its annual revenues would rank it as the 23rd largest economy in the world — ahead of Norway and Venezuela. That’s comparing annual revenues vs. GDP. Hewlett-Packard is only 11th on the Fortune 500, but its 2010 revenues would rank it ahead of Vietnam and Morocco.

So the private sector is more powerful than ever. But it’s also less private than ever. Today, we’re all living in a fishbowl. Any one of us may face public scrutiny for any decision we make. And now it’s instant scrutiny in real time. Most of us are still learning the new rules for life on webcam.

It used to be that companies only faced this kind of scrutiny in a crisis—when the Labor Department exposed sweatshops or when violence erupted along a pipeline. The strategy was crisis-mitigation and damage control, without a lot of attention to the underlying issues. Today, more and more companies realize they can’t wait for the crisis to consider human rights. If you’re living in a fishbowl, on webcam, you have to do the right thing 24/7. And companies find it is often more effective to work together—even with their toughest competitors—as well as with governments like ours, and with NGOs. Through these cooperative efforts, they are addressing the underlying issues before they find themselves in the crosshairs of controversy.

Let me give you a few examples.

In the extractive industries, Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell and 15 other major oil and mining giants, who do business in some of the toughest places on earth, met in Ottawa last month. They joined seven governments and 10 NGOs in a collaborative effort that aims to minimize the risk of human rights abuses by security forces in conflict areas, which is where the natural resources often are.

In the private security industry, Xe Services LLC, formerly Blackwater, and 200 other private security companies have signed on to a new international code of conduct. The code addresses their use of force, and it bans torture, sexual exploitation, human trafficking and forced labor. The companies are now working with governments and NGOs to build a system to verify that everyone who signs up lives up to their pledge.

In the apparel industry, a number of large global companies have opened up factories in their global supply chains to scrutiny by independent auditors and posted reports about their labor practices online. For more than a decade, leading companies including Nike, adidas, Liz Claiborne and H&M have worked hard to improve working conditions in their supply chains, and they have found willing partners from NGOs and universities through an organization called the Fair Labor Association.

These companies are making money in hard places. Each has realized that one of the costs of doing business in those places is to assess the risks and to invest in developing principles, people and processes to address the human rights challenges they confront.

Your problems are not so different from those oil companies with wells in the Niger Delta, security contractors operating in Iraq or apparel companies sourcing in China or Bangladesh. Your challenges are unique, but the process of addressing those challenges is no different.

Over the coming decades, the growth markets for ICT companies will be disproportionally found in less developed countries. That’s where your next three billion customers live. And these are the places where repressive regimes are getting hold of the latest, greatest Western technologies and using them use them to spy on their own citizens for purposes of silencing dissent. Journalists, bloggers and activists are of course the primary targets.

So these are the places where companies will face the greatest scrutiny and real challenges. We’ve all seen the news about demands to turn over user information or questions about what has been sold to repressive regimes by Western companies. Three years ago, the headlines were about companies in China. Last month, rebels found Colonel Qaddafi’s Internet surveillance boiler room in Tripoli as reported in the Wall Street Journal. This week, it’s information technology in Syria.

Of course we have some sanctions in place, and we enforce them. But whether or not there are formal legal sanctions, companies should be thinking about how to do the right thing.

My point is that scrutiny—from the public, the media and Congress—is unlikely to diminish even if the Arab Awakening fades from the headlines, because other governments in some very important emerging markets appear fiercely determined to control what people do online. And just as the extractive industries, private security contractors and apparel companies have found a way forward under scrutiny; your industry must now do the same.

I’m not the right person to assess your business models, your technical capacities, or your dealings with individual governments. Each of you will take your own path. But after almost twenty years of working with companies on tough human rights issues, I can tell you what the smart companies are doing. In general, their response has five elements:

First, they have developed broad principles to guide their actions. In this field, these probably include principles on free expression and privacy and perhaps also criteria on when to avoid working with governments who use technology to become more efficient at committing gross human rights violations.

Second, smart companies are developing internal systems to ensure that these principles are applied in practice. This is not a public relations exercise. It requires senior level buy-in by company leaders, hiring people whose job it is to make sure it happens, and the same focus that executives apply to any other high priority for their business.

Third, leading companies devise internal benchmarks of progress. These benchmarks help assess risks and respond to problems, and they allow companies to evaluate whether they are solving the problems the principles seek to address.

Fourth, they are banding together to develop industry best practices and plans for collective action. In fiercely competitive industries, no company acting alone has the power to solve human rights problems. Working together, in concert with civil society organizations and willing governments like our own, you will have more clout. In my observation, in the area of human rights this often is an essential ingredient of success.

Finally, collective corporate action is bolstered by systematic engagement with stakeholders – with NGOs, universities, think tanks, experts and social investors. They have information, expertise and early warning of problems. Activists, journalists and bloggers are the canaries in your coal mine; if you listen, they can help you anticipate trouble and take steps to address problems before a crisis erupts. And for the record, I offer that same advice to the very governments who often shoot the instant messenger by going out and jailing bloggers instead of listening to the valuable information they convey. Whether you view your stakeholders as dissidents or advisors, they will shape the public debate on your issues. They can make you more credible and validate your efforts.

These elements aren’t a prescription or a quick fix. But they do offer a constructive approach that has worked for other companies. And I would be remiss if I did not call out the efforts of three particular companies, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, for their leadership and all of the NGOs, academics, social investors and other stakeholders with whom they are working through the Global Network Initiative. For the past five years this group has wrestled collectively with the thorniest issues of the day. These are the kind of efforts that help us find ways forward together.

Cyberspace belongs to all of us now. It’s where we live. It’s where you earn your living. And just as no business wants to open its doors in a high-crime neighborhood, no business wants to be located on the street where police are beating up democracy protestors. And we all share an interest in an open Internet that supports a culture of entrepreneurship in which people around the world can thrive. It’s not just the technologies born here in Silicon Valley that are revolutionizing the world and creating huge demand for your products. It’s also the culture, the ethos of innovation, the dedication to freedom, fun and profit that are finding resonance around the world.

The Internet on which the future depends can’t be maintained as an open and global network if we don’t work together to figure out how to push back against those who care more about political domination than empowering innovation. My problem is your problem. It’s all of our problem.

Silicon Valley has already given birth to game-changing technologies and a profoundly new approach to philanthropy. Many people here have made it their life’s work not only to develop transformative technologies but also to put them in the hands of people in places where digital empowerment is leaps ahead of political or financial or educational empowerment. Never have great ideas gone from dream to global distribution so quickly.

But with great code comes great responsibility. It isn’t enough simply to develop a revolutionary product and leave it to others to figure out what happens next. You, the people in this room, are the brain trust for the coming generation – for the next five billion users who will be coming online. So I challenge each of you to work with us to help figure out what can happen next, what must happen next, to preserve the Internet as we know it. Or the autocrats will figure it out for us.

And I challenge each of you to innovate again. Not just in your products, but in the way you will serve your customers. People with real needs, and rights, and aspirations for a better life. Innovate for profit, but also for the people in the hard places. We will be your partner. Thank you.


Free Speech in the Digital Age

Director of the USC Annenburg Center, Geoffrey Cowan (left), with Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, October 24, 2011 (State Department Photo)

Director of the USC Annenberg Center, Geoffrey Cowan (left), with Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, October 24, 2011 (State Department Photo)

Thank you so much, Geoff, for inviting me. And I want to take a minute to honor you for everything you’ve done to build the Annenberg Center and now Sunnylands as a leading venue for thought and discussion about some of the most critical issues of our times. I am eager to have this chance to talk with journalists, aspiring journalists and public policy thinkers about Internet freedom, which I believe is the seminal free-speech issue of our generation.

As most of you know, our section of the State Department, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, is charged with helping to maintain the Internet as an open space for the free expression of all people. My boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made Internet freedom a foreign policy priority, and Congress has given us $70 million to fund technology, training and policy advocacy for Internet freedom around the world. We’ve funded a wide range of programs and trainings aimed at keeping activists in the most repressive environments safe, including a number of Syrians who tell us they are using what they learned in the current struggle for political freedom.

You may have read about the “Panic Button” developed by one of our grantees. This now comes in both Nokia and Android versions and they have encrypted voice and SMS capabilities. These were developed in response to what we heard from democracy and human rights activists on the front lines. If they’re being arrested, they can push a button that sends text messages to people to let them know they’re in trouble. And it wipes the contacts in their phone, which we’ve been told has already proven useful.

We’re making progress. But it’s a struggle. And before we open the discussion, I want to outline three trends that are of deep concern to us.

The first, not a new one of course, is confronting the increasing attempts by some governments to control their citizens’ peaceful online activities. Under international human rights law, people have the right to express themselves, and I quote, “through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Yet interference from states continues in endlessly nefarious and inventive forms. The Committee to Protect Journalists has done an excellent job tracking these tactics, from illicit surveillance and hacking, to offline intimidation of bloggers, to total Internet shutdown.

The Obama administration has staked out a principled stand by arguing that the rights to free expression, assembly and association apply to online activity just as they do to offline activity. Although it may be more difficult to enforce certain rights in the Digital Age, as authors, artists and inventors are discovering. But the principles are the same. You don’t break into a movie theater and steal the film reels, and you don’t have the right to steal movies online, either.

Second, we are seeing a growing number of repressive regimes get hold of the latest, greatest Western technologies and use them to spy on their own citizens for the purpose of quashing peaceful political dissent or even information that would allow citizens to know what is happening in their communities. Journalists, bloggers and activists are of course primary targets. I’m sure many of you saw the reports about rebels overrunning Col. Qaddafi’s Internet surveillance boiler room in Tripoli and finding it stuffed with Western technology. It’s a complex story, but one I hope the media will follow and explore in depth.

There are no easy solutions, because of course the United States wants people in every country to have access to the newest connection technologies, including people in repressive places. And we want to allow our tech industry a free reign for innovation, avoiding onerous regulations as much as we can. At the same time, the use of such technologies by repressive governments to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms is an ongoing concern. At the State Department, we are monitoring this issue very closely. And, we are urging companies to work together, and with like-minded governments and NGOs, to figure out ways to minimize such misuse. Some companies are already doing this by designing innovative fixes that help their products protect users. In some cases, their young customers are the Vaclev Havels and the Nelson Mandelas of the next generation.

And we need to make this dialogue real. Because the third disturbing trend – which I would argue has not received the attention that it merits – is the growing efforts to give countries more control over how the Internet is governed, to cut companies and civil society out of the conversation on shaping the Internet’s future.

Last month in New York the governments of China and Russia, with support from others, came to the UN to suggest the need for an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security.” Were such a code to be enacted, it would almost inevitably erode media freedoms. And it would shift cyberspace away from being people-driven to a system dominated by centralized government control. Not a good idea.

As I said at the outset, I’ve come here for an exchange of views. And so I look forward to a conversation about how together we can defend freedom on these tough issues that are now playing out in some of the hardest places in our world. Thank you.


Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia on Freedom of expression, free media and information

(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 1)

L to R, Amb. Cynthia Efird, Amb. Ian Kelly, Amb. Suzan Johnson Cook, Amb. David Johnson and DAS Thomas Melia, Sept. 26, 2011. Photo by USOSCE/Colin Peters.

L to R, Amb. Cynthia Efird, Amb. Ian Kelly, Amb. Suzan Johnson Cook, Amb. David Johnson and DAS Thomas Melia, Sept. 26, 2011. Photo by USOSCE/Colin Peters.

Freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, and the ability of citizens to access and share a wide range of information are hallmarks of democratic governance and essential to national success in the Information Age. Across the OSCE, individual citizens as well as civil society organizations and journalists seek to inform and shape public debate, influence government decision-making, expose abuses of power, connect with one another and join in the great global flow of news, ideas and opinion. The OSCE, and its impressive Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, have played, and must continue to play, a pioneering role within this region and beyond it, in the defense and advancement of fundamental freedoms via traditional and online media.

Today, in a number of participating States, media – particularly independent media — are under pressure to be silent or self-censor. For practicing their profession, journalists are victims of brutal, sometimes deadly, attacks, often carried out with impunity. The Committee to Protect Journalists has noted that 546 journalists have been killed around the world with complete impunity since 1992. Three countries from the OSCE region — Russia, Tajikistan, and Turkey – are on the list of the top 20 countries that CPJ has recorded with unsolved, or in some instances entirely unaddressed, cases of murdered journalists. Many publics in the OSCE region are denied the opportunity to access a range of sources of information.

OSCE states also are part of a growing global trend by governments to restrict Internet freedom, and, by so doing, restrict the exercise via new media not only of the fundamental freedom of expression, but also the fundamental freedoms of assembly and association. These enduring freedoms apply just as much to a communication sent by Twitter or a gathering organized by Facebook as they do to a conversation on the telephone or in coffee shops, or a demonstration in a public square.

As Secretary Clinton has emphasized: “The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs – these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.”

Almost every aspect of today’s society is being transformed by the rapidly growing number of Internet users, the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, and the expansion of tools such as blogs, social networking sites, and online media. With two billion people now online, the Internet has become the public space of the 21st century.

It is no coincidence that authorities who try to restrict the exercise of fundamental freedoms by their people, impede the work of human rights defenders and civil society organizations, control the press and obstruct the flow of information, tend to be the same authorities who try to restrict, impede, control and obstruct their citizens’ peaceful use of the new digital technologies.

While the latest connective technologies are the most topical media, we must not lose sight of the fact that newspapers, TV, and radio remain critical outlets for information and opinion for much of the world’s population, including in the OSCE region. These media outlets are no less important and no less deserving of the full adherence to OSCE commitments.

Let me now raise specific concerns about freedom of expression and media freedom in a number of OSCE participating States.

In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the state retains a tight grip on all media. We urge the Government of Turkmenistan to allow the importation of foreign print media and to relax existing restrictions on foreign and domestic journalists. Last month, Uzbekistan authorities blocked dozens of Internet sites, including those of the New York Times and many Russia-based news websites. At the beginning of September, Uzbekistan unveiled a new government-sponsored social media site—Mulokot—that reportedly is available only to persons with a registered Uzbek cell phone number. There already are indications that the site is monitored and censored.

Although print media are freer in Kazakhstan, authorities have used excessive fines to close small independent newspapers critical of the regime. Ramazan Yesergepov, editor of the weekly Alma-Ata Info, is still in prison for allegedly revealing state secrets while reporting on a corruption investigation. Authorities have blocked a number of popular blogs and media sites under a 2009 law that classifies all Internet content as media, most recently the popular blog platform LiveJournal, on the grounds that extremists had posted blogs on it. Kazakhstan also recently decided that all .kz domain names will have to operate on physical servers within its borders, a move that could build a virtual wall around the Kazakhstani internet that authorities could use to further control content.

We welcome recent amendments to the Criminal Code in Kyrgyzstan which decriminalized libel and urge other participating States with such laws to consider doing the same. Along with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, we strongly urge that the remaining speech crimes of ‘insult’ and ‘insult of an official’ will also be repealed. More than a year after the violence of June 2010 in Kyrgyzstan, we remain concernedby the closure of Uzbek-language media, particularly in the run-up to elections next month. The August attack by unknown assailants against journalist Shokhrukh Saipov—whose brother Aliher was murdered for his journalism work in 2007—is another example where swift action by the Kyrgyz authorities to investigate and prosecute the crime can help reverse its chilling effect on media freedom.

Armenia also decriminalized libel in 2010, but since then the civil code has been misused to stifle the media through the imposition of heavy fines. Moreover, A1+ TV is still off the airwaves, despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. We hope government will take steps to improve media freedom, especially in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections next year.

In Tajikistan, the government controls most printing presses, newsprint supplies, and broadcasting facilities. The government used this power in 2010 to stop the publication of several newspapers and block access to independent internet websites. Government officials have used lawsuits to intimidate critics. Last June, Urunboy Usmonov, a local correspondent for the BBC who met with members of a banned Islamic group in order to write a story, was arrested on suspicion of belonging to that group. Though he has since been released on bail, he still faces criminal prosecution. Journalist Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov has been held in pre-trial detention since November 2010, charged with inciting religious and national hatred, slander and other crimes after he reported on local corruption.

Although we welcome Azerbaijan’s release of journalist Eynulla Fatullayev and activists Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, journalists and activists in that country continue to risk fines, beatings and imprisonment for exercising their freedom of speech.

In Georgia, many media criticize the government, but the two primary TV stations with countrywide reach remain heavily influenced by the government. There are also ongoing concerns about transparency of ownership of media outlets despite a law passed in 2010 limiting off shore ownership to 10 percent. We look forward to the January 2012 implementation of legislation designed to address these concerns. There are also reports of direct and indirect pressure on journalists, including the beating by security forces of journalists covering the events of the night of June 25-26, and the government’s tax inspection of Media Palitra shortly after it showed coverage of the events of June 25-26 in a manner unfavorable to the government.

Belarus has a poor record on freedom of expression—including for members of the media. The state maintains a monopoly on information about political, social, and economic affairs. Journalists risk fines and/or imprisonment for publishing views contrary to the official government line. This record further deteriorated with last December’s post-election crackdown; students, members of human rights organizations, bloggers, and political party activists were harassed, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression. The further crackdown on independent media included beatings, detentions, convictions, searches, equipment confiscations and other forms of harassment, as well as threats of administrative closures of newspapers. Belarus has periodically blocked social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook and shut down opposition Internet sites. Customers at Internet cafes must present identity documents, and the cafes are responsible for maintaining lists of users and the websites they visit. Authorities routinely monitor emails and Internet traffic. Responding to the “silent protests” that took place in June and July, the government reportedly created “mirror” websites to divert users from accessing independent news sources and blocked access to the popular Vkontakte website before and during protest actions.

In Russia, journalists have risked—and lost—their lives to do their jobs. Paul Klebnikov, Anna Politkovskaya, and Natalya Estemirova and are only three of those who have paid the ultimate price for reporting the news. Journalists covering the ongoing violence in the North Caucasus and official corruption face especially dangerous conditions. Many journalists exercise self-censorship to avoid government pressure.

We welcome the Russian President Medvedev’s statement at the World Economic Forum in January that “Any attempts to limit the Internet or stifle innovation will lead the world to stagnation. Russian will not support initiatives that put Internet freedom in question.” The spread of the Internet undoubtedly has had a positive effect on Russian civil society, providing new opportunities for grassroots organizations to connect with citizens and new platforms to voice alternative viewpoints and hold government accountable. However, problems associated with press freedom for print media have begun to migrate to online media as well. Even when technical blocks or filtering are not deployed systematically, if people are punished physically or through legal action for peacefully expressing themselves online, Internet freedom is constrained. The threats to Internet freedom in Russia range from attacks on bloggers to criminal prosecutions for “extremism”, to the blocking of specific sites by local service providers, denial of service attacks on sites of opposition groups or independent media, and attempts by security services and some regional authorities to regulate Internet content.

In Ukraine, while many outlets for alternative, independent views still exist, the media in general have become less competitive as dominance by the state and oligarchs friendly to the authorities—both national and local—has grown. A number of journalists focusing on corruption at the local level have been threatened or attacked. Impunity for attacks on journalists and the media undermines democracy and the rule of law. It is troubling that authorities have not yet shed light on the disappearance of investigative reporter Vasyl Klymentyev in Kharkiv more than one year ago. And the closed door trial concerning the killing in 2000 of journalist Georgiy Gongadze challenges the right of the public to be informed. It is vital in a democracy that independent media can freely report on matters of public concern.

The United States shares the concern of the Representative on Freedom of the Media and others regarding media freedom in Macedonia. Most recently, the mandates of all members of the management board of the public broadcaster MRT were terminated, a move which could compromise the independence of the broadcaster. When combined with the closure earlier this year of A1 TV and three newspapers accused of tax evasion, we see an overall downward trend, leaving Macedonian citizens with fewer media choices.

In Turkey, scores of Turkish journalists are behind bars, and thousands more are under investigation. A recent survey of journalists indicated that 85.1% of those polled said censorship and self-censorship are definitely common in the Turkish media, while 14.9% said censorship and self-censorship are fairly common. We are increasingly concerned by the restrictions that the Government of Turkey places on Internet freedom. According to the excellent report issued by the Representative of Freedom of the Media, Turkey has the broadest legal measures in the OSCE region for blocking access to websites by specifying 11 content-related crimes, and is considering even further filtering of content. We welcome Ankara’s decision to delay the introduction of new Internet measures, including a nationwide filtering package which members of civil society and industry opposed as a further restriction of Internet freedom. We urge the authorities to respond to their concerns and ensure that any new Internet policies respect a free and open Internet in Turkey.

Digital networks are essential to everyday life in the 21st Century. They empower those working for human dignity and they are an engine of national and global prosperity. At the same time, the Internet’s force and reach make it a target for intrusive governmental regulation. The United States is determined to lead by example and demonstrate by our own actions that increased security and enhanced user privacy go hand-in-hand with keeping the Internet open and free.

All participating States, the United States included, have a responsibility to uphold the solemn OSCE commitments we have made in the crucial areas of freedom of expression and media freedom. We have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute violence against journalists. And we have a responsibility to ensure a political climate that is conducive to the functioning of independent, pluralistic media via traditional and new technologies. We must meet these responsibilities with no excuses and no delay.


Internet Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa

For more information on the human rights situation in countries around the world, check out the human rights reports.

To create your own maps, or to find out more about mapping data, stop by DevelopmentSeed.org.


Protected: Internet Freedom in North Africa and the Middle East

This post is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:


Statement on the Imprisonment of Natalya Sokolova, the Blocking of Websites and the Transfer of Prison Authority in Kazakhstan

The United States wishes to register its concern regarding several events that occurred in Kazakhstan during the OSCE Summer Recess. The first is the August 8 conviction and sentencing to six years imprisonment of Natalya Sokolova, the lawyer for a trade union formed by employees of an oil company in western Kazakhstan. Sokolova’s trial appears to have been marred by violations of procedural due process that call the verdict into question. The six-year sentence Sokolova received for inciting social discord and organizing illegal gatherings is particularly harsh. Credible reports indicate that the presiding judge refused to admit into evidence video recordings in support of Sokolova’s defense and denied her motions to summon witnesses. We urge the government of Kazakhstan to review the case and to take appropriate steps to remedy the procedural inadequacies.

Secondly, Mr. Chairman, the United States is concerned by new reports of numerous web sites being blocked in Kazakhstan, including the popular LiveJournal and LiveInternet blogging communities. A court in Kazakhstan said the sites – widely used by the Russian language community – were propagating terrorism and inciting hatred, although it failed to provide details or request that they remove any offending material. Wholesale blocking of websites raises serious questions, and we appreciate Prime Minister Karim Masimov’s promise to review these recent incidents. We urge Kazakhstan to ensure that any such steps limiting the free flow of information online are in full compliance with OSCE commitments.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, we take this opportunity also to note the August 4 announcement that responsibility for the Kazakhstani prison system has been transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of the Interior. We hope that the Ministry of Interior will work closely with Kazakhstan’s civil society to ensure humane conditions and treatment for prisoners. We note that progress has been made in improving conditions for prisoners in Kazakhstan during the last several years and today express our firm expectation and sincere hope that, in keeping with Kazakhstan’s OSCE commitments, the pace of such improvements will not only continue under the authority of the Interior Ministry, but accelerate as well.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


“Coffee Break with Hillary Clinton” Hosted by CNN-Turk and Moderated by Şirin Payzin

MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Madam, Secretary, thank you very much for joining us. It’s a great pleasure to have you here with us this morning.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, truly thank you, and thanks to everyone who is here with us on such a beautiful day. I am very grateful to have this chance just to talk with you and to talk with the audience members.

MS. PAYZIN: By the way, what a beautiful color you have. Such a –

SECRETARY CLINTON: I just saw your ring. (Laughter.) It’s one of my favorite colors. Absolutely.

MS. PAYZIN: Exactly. It bring a great luck.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s what I’m told. And I need all the luck I can get. So — (laughter).

MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) We’re going to get some questions also from Peter and emails.


MS. PAYZIN: So shall we begin?


MS. PAYZIN: Okay. We have many questions, of course about women issues and social issues and also maybe sports, but let’s begin with the politics.


MS. PAYZIN: You came yesterday for serious talks about Libya and have to end the conflict in this country, and you conveyed very important messages, too. But the situation in Turkey is, at the same time, pretty tense because 13 Turkish soldiers have been killed near Diyarbakir, and there is a huge, very strong angry reaction from the public against PKK. On the other hand, elected Turkish parliamenters are still boycotting Turkish parliament, and they called for autonomy in this region.

So from your perspective, what is your reaction? How do you see the situation? How do you view the situation in Turkey?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say how pleased I am to be back in Turkey. I have enjoyed coming here since the 1990s as a First Lady along with my husband and then as a senator and now as the Secretary of State. And I think the relationship between Turkey and the United States is so important because we have a lot of common concerns and also common shared values.

One of our shared concerns is about terrorism, and the United States has strongly supported Turkey in the efforts to try to eliminate terrorism, like the terrible attack on the soldiers the other day. I condemned it yesterday and I condemned it the day before when it happened. I think the key for both of our countries is to maintain our strong, vibrant, democratic institutions, our pluralist societies, our respect for the wonderful differences among us that make life interesting, but to give no quarter to terrorists. I mean, if people want to participate in the political system and they wish to put forth ideas that I may not agree with or you may not agree with, but they do it peacefully within a democratic process, that’s the way democracy should work. But they must give up violence and they must denounce it, and they cannot be associated with it if they expect to be part of the political system.

So certainly these are all decisions for the Turkish people to make, but I have been involved in many conflicts around the world in working for peace, in working to bring differences together over the divides that too often separate us. And I think we have to draw a very, very sharp line between peaceful protest, political participation, and use of violence and terrorism. And that is just absolutely something that has to be condemned and outlawed and punished very strongly.

MS. PAYZIN: Is there any official stand regarding this declaration of autonomy in this region?


MS. PAYZIN: United States has any reaction to that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, that’s something that is certainly – that’s totally a Turkish domestic matter.

MS. PAYZIN: Okay. So I’ve got many questions about, actually, U.S.-PKK relations. Somehow, even though you’ve made several declarations and remarks about the issue, Turkish public has still doubts about U.S. stands towards PKK. They believe that you are supporting or you are not doing enough — you are not putting enough efforts to stop PKK. What would you say that? How would you answer to those questions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s absolutely untrue. And perhaps we need to do a better job of describing the very close cooperation that exists between the United States military and intelligence services with the Turkish military and the Turkish intelligence services. We have cooperated very closely in Iraq. We continue to provide intelligence whenever we get it. We were very grateful that Turkish authorities broke up an al-Qaida plot that was aimed at American targets in Ankara just a few days ago. We are in constant communication, and the United States put the PKK on our terrorist list, which is the most public way we can condemn the PKK.

So I really hope to disabuse anyone of thinking that. It’s just absolutely not true. But Åžirin, you raise a question that I really want to address because I get the feeling sometimes that we don’t do a good enough job communicating between our two countries and that there are some beliefs or opinions that Turkish people have that are just not true. And so part of the reason I wanted to come here today and especially to address young people who are the future of Turkey and the future of our relationship is to get those questions so that I can do the best possible job in trying to respond to them. So I thank you for asking it because I want to make it absolutely clear we condemn PKK, we do not support PKK, and we’re working with Turkish authorities to prevent any violence that they might wish to inflict upon the Turkish people.

MS. PAYZIN: Okay. Now questions. Who wants to start? Yes, the gentleman who is behind. Microphone. Your name and favorite question, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). Madam, do you have — does America have the solution to the matters like — solution proposal like Cyprus any plans, like a solution made by (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: For the Kurdish matter?

QUESTION: Like, do you have a solution for Kurdish matter, like put forth by (inaudible) for Cyprus?

MS. PAYZIN: (Inaudible) plan.

SECRETARY CLINTON: So do we have a solution for the Kurdish matter, like a proposal that was made for the Cyprus matter?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. First of all, I think it’s important for me to say that we respect and support the Turkish Government in how it deals with the internal matters related to the Kurdish people within Turkey, and we support the democratically elected Iraqi Government in dealing with Kurdish matters within Iraq. But I will make a general point about how to deal with these historical and seemingly intractable problems, because I know that there are people from all parts of Turkey here today. And I am a very strong believer in opening up the political process as widely as possible, in respecting the cultural differences that exist between us, but doing so in a way that promotes a strong, unified, democratic society.

Now, that’s perhaps because I come from a country where everybody comes from somewhere else, and I am privileged to work with people and have always been involved with people who come from all over the world who maintain their religion, maintain their cultural ties, maintain their often family ties with their homelands. So I think that moving toward the broadest possible democratic participation so that Kurdish Turks can feel fully a part of Turkey while still believing that they can maintain those aspects of their Kurdish identity that are important to them, and again, I would stress, drawing the line at any violence or terrorism, because that is not the way you make change in democratic societies.

I spent many years along with my husband working on the problems in Northern Ireland and how to get more participation and involvement in both the political process and the labor market for Catholics who lived in Northern Ireland. Now, it was not easy and it is still not done, but we’ve made progress. Similarly, as I look around the world, I see other countries that are struggling. So I don’t have any plan, because it’s really up to the Turkish people, but I think there are certain principles that can be the guiding lights that are rooted in democratic values and that draw the line at violence. And I would certainly urge that people here in Turkey look at that.

MS. PAYZIN: Okay, a very brief follow-up. Are you disappointed by this action government because they slow down towards democratization?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, I mean, I’m not here to judge the Turkish Government. That’s up to the Turkish people. You just had a very vigorous election and the election was, from everything that I read about it and watched of it, a hard-fought election. And I think it was another strong validation of the vibrant democracy that Turkey has.

But I believe that any government has to be held accountable, has to be transparent. You need a strong opposition in any government. You need checks and balances. Those are the things that I believe in because that’s the way our American system has been successful. And yet I know people looking from the outside at our system sometimes don’t understand it and think, “What are they doing? Why are they so difficult in making decisions?” So every system is unique, but there are, again, certain values that we have learned over time are essential for a democracy. And I know you’re thinking about doing a constitutional reform process, and I strongly believe in protecting people’s rights in constitutions, because there is so much diversity in Turkey. It’s one of the things that is so attractive about Turkey, and you don’t want to do anything that undermines or denies that diversity.

So I think what Turkey has accomplished in the last several decades is remarkable, and I just want to see Turkey get stronger and more prosperous and have your democratic institutions be even more durable and be an example for so many of the countries that themselves are trying to figure out how to make political and economic reforms.


QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, for being here with us. My name is (inaudible), expert from (inaudible) agency. I’ve got two short questions. First is Turkey have recorded an 11 percent of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2011 and have been enjoying an outstanding performance in economic and financial issues lately. Then what’s your estimation of Turkish economy in following 20 or 30 years? And the second is regarding foreign trade. Turkey’s main trading partner is the EU constituting almost 50 percent of our foreign trade. So on the other hand, the trade volume between Turkey and the U.S. is still very low. Why is it so? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think it’s absolutely exciting the way Turkey has grown, and its 11 percent growth rate is phenomenal. It’s one of the highest in the world. It’s higher than what China has posted, as you know, for this similar period. And I imagine that Turkey will continue to grow, but I think the political environment in which Turkey’s growth has occurred has been absolutely critical. I mean, an open economy, a labor market that welcomes everybody into it, an effort to try to develop many parts of the country that historically have been poorer, so there’s a lot of inward investment as well as exporting that has gone into that 11 percent growth. And that is, to me, the right balance. I think Turkey’s combination of internal and external growth is a much stronger foundation than some other countries that are growing very fast but are largely export driven. You have a growing consumer base. You have a growing middle class. That’s what will enable Turkey to continue that growth over the next 20, 30, 50 years.

And what I hope is that Turkey will be an engine for economic growth in the region, particularly to the east and to the south. I am working hard to increase trade and investment between the United States and Turkey. I think there has been a natural relationship between Turkey and the European Union, and of course, the United States strongly supports Turkey’s accession and membership in the EU. But historically, there’s been all of those ties. What I would like is to see more business men and women from the United States seeking investment, seeking partnerships, seeking joint ventures here with Turkish businesses. I just came from a group that has started here in Turkey called Partnerships for a New Beginning, which the United States is working with in order to really create more linkages between American business and Turkish business, and we are very encouraging of Turkish investment in the Middle East, in North Africa, because we think Turkish businesses have a lot to teach as well as to contribute to the economic growth in other countries as well as your own.

MS. PAYZIN: Especially in the region.

SECRETARY CLINTON: In the region, absolutely.

MS. PAYZIN: Have you seen those changes? I mean, you said that you came before here with your –


MS. PAYZIN: Are you (inaudible) those changes around?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I find Turkey one of the most exciting places in the world.

MS. PAYZIN: (Inaudible) I don’t know. I mean –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, when I first came in the ‘90s, it was really at the beginning of the economic takeoff. And there were some businesses that had historically always done well. There were a group of wealthy Turks, like there are wealthy people anywhere in the world, but the base of economic growth has exploded in Turkey in the last 20 years. And I’ve seen that with my own eyes, and I’ve not only seen it in the statistics, which the young man just quoted, but I’ve seen it in the day-to-day life. And certainly, as I interact with Turkish business leaders, Turkish academics, Turkish media people, as well as Turkish Government officials, there is just a confidence about your future that I think is important, because that confidence should be a base for maybe some of the tough decisions about how you integrate Kurds, for example, how you develop other parts of the country. There is such a strong economic impetus to continue the political development that they really go hand in hand. So I’m excited by what I have seen.

MS. PAYZIN: We have one guest, actually, from Gaziantep, so –

QUESTION: From Karaman.

MS. PAYZIN: From Karaman. Sorry. (Laughter.) It’s about women issue, maybe — women matter.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I am (inaudible) from Karaman (inaudible). I am president of the woman commission in (inaudible) and the part of Turkish (inaudible). I have –

MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)

QUESTION: I have two short questions. (Inaudible) yesterday you made a statement about developing business between United States and Turkey. Does it have to increase women in entrepreneur in Turkey? As you know (inaudible) labor force is very low comparing with woman population, and (inaudible) on development of economic (inaudible) woman rights. Would you like to say something about this? And other one is we have heard from the President global entrepreneurship of the State Department has started in Turkey. Could you please tell us a bit more about this initiative? Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, and thank you for both of those questions. Well, first of all, I have spent most of my adult life working for women to have the equal opportunity to participate in societies based on their choice. And I am strongly in favor of women and men making responsible choices. And so for women who need or wish to participate in the labor market because they need to help support their families and their children, or because they want to pursue a career, I think the more open a society can be to that, the more successful the economic growth of that society will be. There is just so much evidence, from the World Bank and the IMF and the United Nations that where women are able to participate fully, to have access to credit, to start their own businesses, to be given the opportunity to not only get a full education all the way through university or even graduate programs, but then to be welcomed into the workforce, there’s just a higher rate of productivity for the entire society. And it is also very beneficial to the woman and her family. So I am a strong believer in that.

Now, how do we do that? Well, obviously, the first step is to make sure there are no laws that prohibit women from having access. And I think Turkey has made enormous amounts of changes in laws over the last 20 years, so I don’t know enough to have an opinion whether there are still some barriers that are legal barriers or not, but clearly it’s imperative that there be no barriers, that women who can compete in the economic arena be permitted to do so.

Secondly, there are also still attitude problems in my society and in any society, whether women are encouraged to participate in the economy or not. And that is something that needs to be approached in the informal society. It’s not something you can pass a law about, but you have to be encouraging of girls to get the best education that they can get and for them to be able to participate and to try to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination or stereotyping that still exist in, as I say, every society.

Part of what we’re trying to do with the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that is coming to Turkey this fall is to build on an initiative that President Obama started to encourage entrepreneurship for men and women, because we know that 60 percent of the population is under 30 in Turkey. Isn’t that right?


SECRETARY CLINTON: And 60 percent of the population in the world is under 30, and some societies have an even higher percentage. So we have this enormous mass of young people, and we have to look at how we can create more economic ladders. There will not be enough gainful employment in government jobs. There will not be enough gainful employment in traditional corporations and businesses. There has to be an emphasis on creativity and innovation, and that means entrepreneurial energy. And we want to share ideas that we’ve learned over time in the United States by bringing entrepreneurs from the United States to meet with Turkish entrepreneurs, and to bring in young people, so that good ideas have somewhere to go, and they don’t just die or get shelved. So this Entrepreneurship Summit will be – I’m not – we don’t have the exact date yet, but it will be in fall. I will be sure – we’ll get the names of everybody here. We’ll be sure that you all are given notice of it through our Embassy.

But I think it’s important as I look out at all of you and I see a group of very energetic and affluent and educated young people here in Turkey to be thinking about what do we do with all these millions of young people who are not educated, young women who don’t feel confident enough or encouraged enough to get into the job market. That’s a ticking time bomb, as we say. If we don’t have jobs – you saw what happened in Egypt – that was as much an economic revolution as a political revolution. You saw what happened in Tunisia. Turkey is a great example, so the more Turkey can demonstrate entrepreneurial activity, the more others can learn from you. And I think that’s something that we want to work with you on behalf of that partnership.

MS. PAYZIN: Yes, yes. And there are many questions also from internet. Here’s the one. (Inaudible) and is asking you if you really believe that Turkey is the new leader of Middle East, and what do you think – do you really think that Turkey – there is a shift for Turkey from West to East?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think there’s any reason for Turkey to shift from West to East. Turkey is so strategically located between East and West; there isn’t a country in the world that literally straddles both continents the way Turkey does. So as an outsider, I’ve always thought that the debate, do you look East, do you look West, is kind of a – it’s a debate without real meaning to it, because why would you give up one for the other when you can do both? I mean, Turkey is so well positioned. Part of the reason you’ve got this 11 percent growth rate and more to come is because of your strategic geographic position, but more than that because of a mental mindset. You can look both ways, and to me, that is an incredible advantage in the world in which we find ourselves.

So I think Turkey is a regional and global leader. Turkey is a member of the G-20. Turkey has made a very strong commitment to working with not only regional problems but even global problems. And that’s, to me, the direction Turkey should go. I think that there is no sense in saying it’s either/or; it should be both/and.

MS. PAYZIN: Okay. We have two new guests. (Laughter and applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, hi. (Laughter.) So we have the kitty questions coming up.

MS. PAYZIN: Do you like cats?


MS. PAYZIN: Okay. So — they’re lovable. (Laughter.) Okay. Since we are talking about Middle East, maybe we can – I know that there are many questions about Arab things especially, so the gentleman behind in the white shirt.

QUESTION: I am okay?


QUESTION: (Inaudible.) My name (inaudible) University, department of sociology (inaudible). My question will be about Arab Spring. First of all, I want to learn that — give the U.S. credit or (inaudible) this Arab Spring. If (inaudible) indicate this. And in this context, what do you think about alternative scenario if you think hypothetically? What will be the situation of Syria after Bashar Asad, and what – how do you think the Turkish role will be in this situation? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know anyone who predicted the exact events that happened during the Arab Spring, but many of us had predicted at some time the situation in a lot of the countries in North Africa and the Middle East were not sustainable. In fact, I gave a speech in Doha at a conference in early January this year in which I said that leaders had to be more accountable, they had to fight against corruption which we eroding the base of trust that people have to have with their government officials, and that there was going to be some kind of event, but I had no idea that it would be happening so quickly as it is now. So I don’t think that certainly the United States or any country that I’m aware of officially predicted this. It’s caught people by surprise in terms of the timing, but not in terms of the inevitability that there would have to be changes, either forced upon a society or made from within.

And what we are now all working on, and I’ll be meeting – I met, as I said, with the president last night, I’ll be seeing the foreign minister and prime minister today. What we are all working on is how we can be supportive as these countries make their democratic transitions. They have to do it themselves. People from the outside, whether American or Turkish, we can’t come in and tell people what to do. There has to be an internal process. But we have a lot of lessons to share. I mean, the Turkish economic success is something that would benefit all of these countries if they would come to you and say, “How did you do it?” The political and democratic progress that you’ve made would be another way to help.

So we are working with not only Turkey but other countries to try to be available to offer financial help, to offer technical expert help in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Jordan. And we’re working to try to get a peaceful transition in Yemen, which is difficult – the efforts being led by the Gulf Cooperation Council. We’re trying to encourage dialogue in Bahrain. So there’s a lot going on.

But certainly, what’s happening in Syria is very uncertain and troubling, because many of us had hoped that President Asad would make the reforms that were necessary without seeing what we’re now seeing in the streets of Syria, which are government tanks and soldiers shooting peaceful demonstrators. And I said — I know that the Turkish Government has also said — that the brutality has to stop. There must be a legitimate, sincere effort with the opposition to try to make changes. I don’t know whether that will happen or not.

And none of us really have influence other than to try to say what we believe and to encourage the changes that we hope for. I know that the Turkish Government is sheltering about 8,500 refugees from the violence across your border, and I know that the Turkish Government has tried to influence some of the decisions that were being made and encourage the government to stop the violence. But I think we don’t know how this is going to end yet, and it’s a very important outcome for Turkey because you share a 900-kilometer border with Syria. And stability inside Syria is important for Turkey, but the right kind of stability – a transition to democracy – is what would be best for Turkey and even more importantly what would be best for the Syrian people.

QUESTION: Very briefly, we know that Turkish Government and U.S., they were pretty much different when it comes to Middle East policies, especially about Syria and Iran. Now can you say that you are much more closer about Syrian issue and also Iran because Turkey basically didn’t give you enough support at the UN about nuclear issue? So what is the situation right now? How would you describe it? Closer, very close, or still distant?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, I think it’s very close and I think that I really believe that Turkey and the United States share a very similar strategic assessment about what we hope to see happening regionally and globally. We do not always agree on tactics. I don’t know two countries that always agree on tactics. I don’t know two people who always agree on tactics. And of course, we did have our differences over the vote in the United Nations, but our shared view that we want to do everything we can together to convince and prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, which would be very destabilizing in the region, there is no daylight at all between us. And we talk about it and we work on it every single week together.

I was saying, actually, to President Gul last night that we – I think in the last two and a half years we have proven, number one, that we weather our differences. We are friends, we are partners, we are NATO allies, and we recognize that we will not always decide to do things exactly the same, but we share this strategic vision about where we would like to see the world go. And we have built a lot of trust. I’ve spent a lot of my own time visiting with the high-level Turkish officials. President Obama has developed a very good relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan. They talk on the phone. They meet frequently. And they have the kind of talks that is not formalistic and is not just polite and diplomatic. They say, “Well, why do you think that,” or, “Why do you believe that,” or, “Why are you doing this?” They have a very open exchange. That is how people who are honest with each other, who value each other, who respect each other treat each other.

So I think we are very close, but that doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree and it doesn’t mean that the media won’t take one disagreement out of a hundred agreements and say, “Oh my gosh, they’ve disagreed.” But I think both of us understand over the long run we are on the same page moving toward the kind of world we want, which is more peaceful, more prosperous, more respectful, more enabling and empowering of people to make their own decisions within a democratic context.

MS. PAYZIN: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Secretary, my name is (inaudible) and I work for (inaudible) foundation in Turkey. I am also the vice chair of an organization I think you know well, ICNL that work on nonprofit law reform.


QUESTION: And we commend your leadership on legal reform for civil society in the region and in the world, and I would like to ask you – you talked about Turkey being a good example. Turkey did undergo such reforms two years ago – I was honored to work on some of them – in which we now have much more democratic laws for civil society. And I wanted to know what’s the case that you could make to governments in the region and elsewhere in the world in which we could make the case for a more legally enabling environment for civil society. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for your work. And I view society as being like a three-legged stool, where you need an honest, effective, accountable, transparent government that delivers results for people within a democratic structure; where you need a free market economy that unleashes people’s entrepreneurial energies and provides enough of a protective framework so that people are not exploited when they deliver their labor for an honest day’s paycheck; but the third leg of that stool is civil society. It’s where we live most of our lives. It’s how we associate with each other. It’s volunteer activities. It’s religious and expressive activities. And so I believe strongly that as democracy develops, strengthening civil society is essential to protecting the other two legs of the stool. And what you’ve done with the changes you’ve made in Turkey is a very strong case for that.

I think we always have to be monitoring to assure that civil society is given the room, the space it needs, to operate. But I really respect the changes that you have made. Now I would like other countries, other societies, to look to see the importance of civil society, and for governments not to be afraid of civil society. I think that’s such an important lesson that we all have to learn. I’ve been in both sides. I’ve been in civil society for many years of my life as an advocate for women and children, and I’ve been in government. And when I’m in government, I sometimes get annoyed at my friends in civil society because they’re criticizing what I do or they’re publishing reports that say that we’re not doing enough. But then I remember I used to be there. And if I hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have made the changes that actually help the people that we care about.

So it has to be a partnership. And oftentimes, there’s tension in it because if you are in civil society, you’re going to be pushing the government to do more, and you’re going to be pushing the economy to do more. That’s the way it should be. That’s a good balance.

MS. PAYZIN: Madam Secretary, I have a bad news. Well, actually it’s a bad news for us because you have another seven minutes to go.


MS. PAYZIN: So very brief questions.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ll try to give briefer answers, I promise.

MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Okay. (In Turkish.)

QUESTION: Hi, (inaudible) law firm. My first question is notations on criminals of speech and freedom of press. I have debated in (inaudible) several columnists and writers are under arrest. In addition, as of August the law requires ultimate offense for internet users. What would you advise citizen living in such a country? Should we be quiet in silence or should we — I mean, even through big names are in prison, or should we raise our voice? Or what is your comment?

My second question is a personal question to you. Instead of being a member of U.S. Government, let’s assume that you are a member of Turkish Government. What would you change first in Turkey? (Laughter) And what would you highlight to attract U.S. investors into Turkey? Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, first of all, if there is an area that I am concerned about with recent actions in Turkey, it is this area that you have raised. It’s the area of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. I do not think it’s necessary or in Turkey’s interest to be cracking down on journalists and bloggers and the internet, because I think Turkey is strong enough and dynamic enough with enough voices that if there are differences of opinion, those will be drowned out by others who can debate it in the marketplace of ideas. So I do think this is an area that deserves attention from citizens, from lawyers – which you said you were – because it seems to me inconsistent with all the other advances that Turkey has made. And so therefore, as someone looking at it from the outside, I don’t understand it, because, of course, I come from a country that has very, very broad protections for the media. And I know that a lot of times people on the outside do not understand that, because people say or do things in my country that personally I find just offensive and unpatriotic and anti-American, and it makes my blood boil. But we know that over time that basically gets overwhelmed by other opinions, and so you then get to a point where you’ve got a much clearer idea of what the basis of opinion and change might be.

So I would, if I were in the Turkish Government, which I am not – and I say this very respectfully – I would be standing up for freedom of expression and freedom of journalism – (applause) – and freedom of bloggers and freedom of the internet, because I think in today’s world information is so broadly available that it’s going to get out there anyway. And –

MS. PAYZIN: Will you mention this to the prime minister this afternoon when you’re going to meet him?

SECRETARY CLINTON: He and I have talked about it before, and –

MS. PAYZIN: But any new — because more and more journalists right now and Kurdish Turkish vote.


MS. PAYZIN: So will you again mention –

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will, because I do think – I mean, as I say, this is an area where I don’t understand because I don’t think it’s necessary. I think Turkey is strong enough, I think the Turkish character, the Turkish people are strong enough that they can take whatever opinion is out there. But that’s my view of it.

MS. PAYZIN: I know there are many questions, but I have one picture to show you. This is important. This was a huge debate in Turkey, actually. I wish you could explain us — (laughter) — what you’re feeling –


MS. PAYZIN: — when you’re watching the operation against bin Ladin.


MS. PAYZIN: Could you share with us your feelings on how was –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you might guess, this was a very, very small group of us at the highest levels of our government who were aware of and planning this operation against bin Ladin. And it was a very tense time. It was also the height of the Washington allergy season. So I cannot tell you exactly what I was thinking at that moment, because there’s no way I can reconstruct it.

MS. PAYZIN: But it’s lovely because everybody says that this woman. She is expressing her feelings. That’s how women are in politics. Is that –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would hope you would have feelings, because I can’t imagine not having feelings about really everything we do. Because what we are trying to do has real impact on people’s lives. And this for me was a very intense experience, because I was a senator from New York on 9/11 so I knew many of the families who lost their loved ones in the attack on 9/11, and as you remember, nearly 3,000 people, but they were from all over the world. They weren’t just Americans. And so it was a – as I am sitting there and we’re watching what we could see of the operation, this was a very emotional experience. And it was also, as I’ve said, I had also been sucking on lozenges and taking all kinds of allergy medicine. So it was a combination of all kinds of feelings and activities going on at the same time.

MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible) lawyer, me too. (Laughter.) And I want to follow up on his point. Unfortunately, you mentioned that you don’t understand the situation with respect to press freedom in Turkey, because I think you think it’s an aberration of the system; it’s the exception. But unfortunately, it is not, Madam, right now, just over five years in Turkey, the number of those who are detained without conviction has doubled in this country. We’ve got many people from a position who are detained on shaky evidence. We would like very much you to see — we would like to see you very much to raise these issues with our government. Maybe they will listen to you more than they listen to us, and we would very much like to see you mention –


QUESTION: — especially, two names I would say, Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik. These are two prominent journalists of this country, and they are in prison on very shaky evidence. This is unfortunately the situation of the Turkish democracy right now. We can give many more examples along these lines. And why when we’ve got such a record in human rights –

MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)

QUESTION: — how can you project Turkey an example of democracy in the region?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. As I’ve said, I have raised this before. I will certainly be raising it again. But let me just say that I think it’s very important for citizens like yourself to raise it. I’m here for two days and then I’m gone, and I think it’s important that any imperfections in your democracy – and every democracy has imperfections – I mean, on balance, Turkish democracy is a model because of where you came from and where you are. That doesn’t mean you don’t have work to do. I mean, we still have work to do. We have problems that we have to continue to try to overcome.

So I would urge that people who have such a stake in the future of Turkey, as all of you do, raise this in a way that can get the attention of authorities without being immediately dismissed because, actually, this will strengthen Turkish democracy, in my opinion.

MS. PAYZIN: One question, one last question from the internet again (inaudible) is asking you if there will be a ground operation against PKK in coming days towards northern Iraq, what would be the reaction of Washington?

SECRETARY CLINTON: So we have supported the Turkish military and we will continue to support the Turkish military in going after PKK terrorists. And we are well aware of how dangerous terrorism is, and one of the issues we are discussing with the Turkish Government is, as you know, the United States has had military forces in Iraq – we are withdrawing those forces – whether or not there is some decision made for us to leave some forces. The fact is we are drawing down the vast majority of them, and those forces were in partnership with the Turkish Government to make sure we could do whatever possible to support the Turkish effort against the PKK. So we are working to see what else we can do once we withdraw from Iraq to provide that support.

MS. PAYZIN: Well, thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, this is — oh, my goodness.

MS. PAYZIN: We have many, many questions, but unfortunately, I’m sure that you have a very –

SECRETARY CLINTON: I wish I could stay.

MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Last words? I mean, anything you (inaudible) this visit and –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would like to continue this. I’m sorry that time doesn’t permit. But I would offer the invitation to those of you who had your hands up who didn’t get to ask questions to send me the questions to the American Embassy.

MS. PAYZIN: Yeah. Many questions about visas, especially, also possible investment possibilities, and social media, also women issues because –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will answer every question that you send to me. And I really have enjoyed this and I would love another chance to continue it, so maybe we’ll have chapter two sometime in the future.

MS PAYZIN: You are most welcome. Any time you like.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And finally, how many of you participated in the Turkish-American exchange program? Because – (laughter) — oh, because I announced that when I came in 2009, and now it’s really working and I can put real faces with the program. And we’re going to continue that. I would like to expand it even, if I can. But I really invite you to please give me your thoughts, your questions, your constructive criticism, because I want not only to represent my government but to represent my country, and to have not just government-to-government relations but people-to-people relations, which I will do everything I can to support.

MS. PAYZIN: Okay, very brief. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) is asking will you be the next and first female president of the United States?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, no. I won’t. I won’t.

MS. PAYZIN: Any hope for women? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, look, I mean, I know that Turkey had a woman prime minister some years ago, so you’re ahead of us.

MS. PAYZIN: Not that (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t think so. I think, though, that I will support – hopefully in my lifetime, I will see a woman president, because I believe in equal rights and equal opportunities and equal responsibilities. So I think that would be something to look forward to.

MS. PAYZIN: Well, Madam Secretary, thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you all.

MS. PAYZIN: Thank you. (In Turkish.)



Promises we Keep Online: Internet in the OSCE Region

Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel B. Baer delivers testimony before the Helsinki Commission.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel B. Baer delivers testimony before the Helsinki Commission.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Distinguished Members of the Commission, I appreciate the Commission’s affording me the opportunity to address an issue with profound implications for the exercise of human rights in the OSCE region and across the globe: ensuring a free and open Internet. Your focus on this critical subject is emblematic of the Commission’s strong defense and dedicated promotion of human rights principles enshrined at the core of the Helsinki Final Act and UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. States have an enduring responsibility to respect these principles and their responsibility extends into the Digital Age. In the 21st Century, men and women everywhere are increasingly turning to the Internet and other connection technologies to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

I have valued the opportunity to work with Members of this Commission and your superb staff. The Commission’s efforts greatly strengthen my hand and that of Assistant Secretary Michael Posner and our colleagues in the State Department as we work with other governments, civil society advocates and the private sector to defend and advance human rights and democratic government. The defense of Internet Freedom is integral to our efforts.

If I may, Mr. Chairman, first I will describe the Obama Administration’s global policy of support for Internet Freedom. Then, as you have requested, I will highlight key trends and concerns regarding a number of countries in the OSCE region. Finally, I will describe what we are doing institutionally within the OSCE to ensure Internet Freedom.

The U.S. Champions a Rights-Based Approach to Global Internet Freedom

The United States champions Internet freedom because it derives from universal and cherished rights—the freedoms of speech, assembly, and association. An open Internet gives people a neutral platform from which to express their legitimate aspirations and shape their own destiny. We believe that people in every country deserve to be able to take part in building a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society. In the 21st century, technology is a powerful tool with which to exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms. In turn, ensuring Internet freedom helps create the space for people to use technology to “know and act upon” their rights.

As Secretary Clinton has emphasized: “The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs – these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.”

As we all know, the Internet and other new technologies are having a profound effect on the ability to organize citizen movements around the world. And because repressive regimes understand the power of this technology, they are redoubling their attempts to control it. It is no coincidence that authorities who try to restrict the exercise of fundamental freedoms by their people, impede the work of human rights defenders and civil society organizations, control the press and obstruct the flow of information, tend to be the same authorities who try to restrict, impede, control and obstruct their citizens’ peaceful use of these new connective technologies.

Governments that respect their citizens have no reason to fear when citizens exercise their rights. And governments that respect the rights of their citizens have no reason to fear a free Internet. As President Obama has said: “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”

Recently, in Vilnius, on the margins of the Community of Democracies ministerial meeting, Secretary Clinton and I met with activists—including several from the OSCE region — who spoke of the surveillance, hacking, and harassment they face every day.

Mr. Chairman, we are not cyber-utopians who believe that the Internet is the magic answer to the world’s human rights problems. Technology does not change the world; people must. Some governments are using advanced technologies to chill free expression, to stifle dissent, to identify and arrest dissidents. Through our diplomacy and through direct support for embattled activists worldwide, we are helping people stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers, and the brutes who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online.

At the same time, we will continue to speak out about the regimes that resort to such behavior. And we will continue to point out that cracking down on the Internet only undermines the legitimacy of a government in the eyes of its own people – particulary young people. Those who have grown up in the Internet age understand how critical it is that all people everywhere can join in the global discussion and debate. These young “digital natives” understand intiuitively the dangers of an online world where citizens in one country receive only censored information and so form a stilted view of the world. And they understand intuitively the need to protect the promise and the potential of a truly free and global Internet.

Around the world, our embassies and missions are working to advance internet freedom on the ground. We are building relationships with “netizens” and advocating on behalf of imprisoned and arrested online activists. Internet freedom is now a core part of many of our bilateral human rights and economic discussions with a broad range of countries. Fostering free expression and innovation is a core element of the President’s International Strategy for Cyberspace, released in May of this year. As Secretary Clinton said in the rollout of the strategy, cyber issues are a new foreign policy imperative. Accordingly, we are integrating Internet freedom into our engagements on the broader range of cyber issues.

Since 2008, the State Department and USAID have committed $50 million in direct support for activists on the front lines of the struggle against Internet repression. By the end of 2011, we will have allocated $70 million toward these efforts. Our programming responds to the most urgent priorities we hear from activists on the ground – including embattled democracy and human rights activists from OSCE countries. A critical part of our efforts is support for circumvention technology, to enable users to get around firewalls erected by repressive regimes. But circumvention alone is not enough. Users do not just need access to blocked content; they also need to be able to communicate safely with each other, to organize, to get their own messages out. For this reason, we are funding the development of better communication technologies, including secure tools for mobile phones, to empower activists to safely organize themselves and publish their own material. We are funding trainings on cyber self-defense, to train activists in person about the risks they face and how to protect themselves online. And we are committing funding to research and development, so that we stay ahead of the curve in understanding evolving threats to Internet freedom.

We also are working with the private sector, to define the steps that governments and businesses need to take to protect and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms at a time when the technology and its implications are changing constantly.

And, through our multilateral diplomacy, we are playing a leading role in building a global coalition of governments committed to advancing Internet freedom. To that end, we are working at the UN Human Rights Council, in UNESCO, in the OECD, and, of course, within the OSCE.

OSCE as a Pioneering Regional Platform for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age

Mr. Chairman, as you know, OSCE was the first regional organization to recognize that respect for human rights, pluralistic democracy and the rule of law are prerequisites for a lasting order of security and prosperity. And OSCE was the first regional organization to acknowledge the vital importance of civil society. The Helsinki process must continue to be a pioneer for human dignity, civil society and democratic government in the Digital Age.

Challenges to Internet freedom in the OSCE region are illustrative of the issues we are addressing across the globe in our efforts to support an open Internet. Let me now address trends and concerns related to Internet Freedom in a number of OSCE participating States:


In mid-2010, Belarusian authorities announced a new legal regime designed to restrict freedom of speech on the Internet, and to harass and intimidate individuals and organizations to deter them from expressing their views through Internet postings, email and websites. The law requires all website owners to register with the authorities, and further requires them to maintain their sites on the government-controlled .by domain. Citizens seeking to use the Internet at public locations including Internet cafes must present their identity documents, and Internet cafes are responsible for maintaining lists of users and the websites they visit. Authorities routinely monitor emails and Internet traffic, and at times block access to websites linked to opposition political parties and independent media groups. On December 19, 2010, the day of the presidential election, authorities also blocked access to popular global sites, including Twitter and Facebook. The same day, denial of service attacks led to the disabling of over a dozen popular Belarusian independent media websites.

In recent days, Belarusian citizens have mobilized via the Internet to organize a series of “silent” protests designed to highlight the government’s continuing repression, the lack of freedom of speech, and the country’s deteriorating economic situation. Since June 8, such protests –in which participants gather silently and clap their hands – have taken place in at least 43 cities and towns across the country. Authorities have responded by dispersing gatherings via heavy-handed tactics and by detaining hundreds of people. Police have ordered the closure of at least seven websites, and reports of denial of service attacks and spear-phishing attacks have also increased. Finding themselves unable to completely suppress free expression via the Internet, Belarusian authorities have created their own Twitter accounts to threaten protest participants, and have flooded the most popular Belarus-focused news feeds with misinformation designed to disrupt plans for further protests.

Yet the protests continue and demonstrators continue to express themselves online. Over 216,000 people joined a group on Vkontakte (the Russian-language equivalent of Facebook), calling for “Revolution via the social networks” in Belarus. The page was shut down on July 3, but a replacement page gained 20,000 members in two days. Bloggers and Internet journalists have continued to post videos of police beatings and harassment of peaceful demonstrators on YouTube. During a recent public protest on July 3, police reportedly arrested nearly 200 people; at least 15 journalists were also detained. During protests on July 13, authorities blocked access to Vkontakte for several hours, but hundreds of demonstrators still turned out to silently protest in locations around Minsk. As Secretary Clinton has made clear, we will continue to press for the human rights and democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people. And we will continue our staunch support for those struggling to make their voices heard both online and in the streets.

The Participating States of Central Asia

In the Central Asian region, we continue to be concerned by governments’ efforts to block websites, particularly when information or opinions are expressed via the Internet that are critical of government officials or policies. Media laws and registration requirements are also used to target independent activists and dissidents, which does not accord with the commitments that OSCE participating States have made to ensure freedom of expression. Internet censorship further aggravates the constraints on freedom of expression and other fundamental freedoms that impede progress and development in the Central Asian states. In order for the Central Asia region to prosper, 21st century new media technologies must be harnessed to facilitate citizens’ vibrant ideas and contributions, not governments’ repression.

In Kazakhstan, we have long expressed our concern that the Respublika news portal remains inaccessible to users of Kaztelecom, the government-owned Internet service provider, along with dozens of other independent sites that are intermittently blocked. In Tajikistan too, we have seen the blockage of websites disseminating independent or critical views. And in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, heavy monitoring of Internet content and registration requirements continue to impede free expression. In Kyrgyzstan, despite an end to official restrictions on, or monitoring of, the Internet after the April 2010 change in government, we were concerned by the Parliament’s recent resolution calling for the Fergana.ru site to be banned on grounds that it is inciting ethnic hatred. We believe that full respect for freedom of expression, including via the Internet, can undergird efforts at reconciliation and accountability in Kyrgyzstan.


We welcome the Russian President Medvedev’s statement at the World Economic Forum in January that: “Any attempts to limit the Internet or stifle innovation will lead the world to stagnation. Russia will not support initiatives that put Internet freedom in question.” The spread of the Internet undoubtedly has had a positive effect on Russian civil society, providing new opportunities for grassroots organizations to connect with citizens and new platforms to voice alternative viewpoints and hold government accountable. However, problems associated with press freedom for print media have begun to migrate to online media as well. Russia is one of the countries “under surveillance” in the 2010 Enemies of the Internet report by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Even when technical blocks or filtering are not deployed systematically, if people are punished physically or through legal action for peacefully expressing themselves online, Internet freedom is constrained. The threats to Internet freedom in Russia range from attacks on bloggers to criminal prosecutions of bloggers for ‘extremism’, to the blocking of specific sites by local service providers, denial of service (DDOS) attacks on sites site of opposition groups or independent media, and attempts by security services and some regional authorities to regulate Internet content. For example:

In November 2010, journalist and blogger Oleg Kashin was brutally beaten outside his home in Moscow. Leading human rights organizations in Russia connect the attack with material he had published on his blog.

The independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta came under a DDOS attack in April, while a wide-scale March DDOS attack on LiveJournal, a blog hosting site, began by targeting the blog of prominent anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny. Navalny has also been targeted for prosecution for criminal charges alleging that he had facilitated a 2009 bad investment for a regional government in his capacity as a legal advisor. Rights groups in Russia believe that the charges are politically motivated.

Regional authorities have acted to block sites or prosecute those who produce content that they deem politically undesirable. Bloggers in Oryol, Marii El, Syktykvar, and other areas of Russia have have faced prosecution for posting insults to Prime Minister Putin or other official persons in online forums. Local authorities have acted in multiple cases to compel local service providers to block certain sites that contain materials listed on the Federal List of Extremist Materials—a problematic and expanding list of over 700 publications. Regional providers have also temporarily blocked sites of the political opposition, such as the site of the Solidarity Movement and Kasparov.ru, and independent publications like the New Times.

Whistleblowers also face legal retaliation. For instance, Yuri Yegorov, a blogger from Tatarstan and a former employee of the regional government, received a 6-month suspended sentence in May for libel after he alleged corruption and embezzlement on the part of Tatarstan human rights ombudsman Rashit Vagizov. His reports of corruption were later supported by other witnesses’ testimonies, which were ignored by the court.


We are increasingly concerned by the restrictions that the Government of Turkey places on Internet freedom. Turkish authorities have blocked over 5,000 websites, many with content on sensitive social and political issues. Much of this blocking is done in accordance with Turkey’s 2007 Internet law, which allows the government to prohibit a Web site if there is suspicion that the site is committing any of eight crimes. These restrictions have been criticized by prominent officials within the Turkish government itself, including President Abdullah Gul.

This year has brought two new proposed restrictions on Internet freedom. Turkish authorities announced a new ban on Internet domain names that contain 138 words deemed offensive based on vague criteria. In addition, the government announced that it planned to introduce a nationwide filtering system to be implemented by Internet Service Providers. The proposal was met with widespread criticism, from the international community and from within Turkish civil society. Although some Turkish Internet associations indicate this decision may be postponed, yet the regulations are still scheduled to take effect August 22. While we understand these restrictions are allegedly designed to protect children from harmful content on the Internet, banning words in an attempt to eliminate undesirable content from the Internet cannot succeed. . Major international Internet companies have voiced concerns over operating in Turkey under such regulations. If Turkey is to ensure a modern, prosperous, and peaceful society, it cannot continue to constrain the potential of the Internet for the exercise of human rights.


In Azerbaijan, Internet access is not restricted. For example, the government does not restrict web sites such as You Tube or Facebook, both of which are very popular. The government’s release of young blogger-activists Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli last fall and newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev this spring were positive developments.

We are concerned, however, that government officials appear to have monitored certain types of online activity, including postings on social media sites, in order to restrict freedom of assembly, specifically the activities of youth and opposition organizers who used these sites to organize anti-government demonstrations in March and April. Several of these activists – presumably identified from internet postings as organizers – were detained or imprisoned following these events. For example, youth activists Bakhtiyar Hajiyev and Jabbar Savalanli were arrested earlier this year after using the Internet for pro-democracy activism. Hajiyev, a candidate in last November’s parliamentary elections, was detained on draft evasion charges pending since 2010 after he was associated with Internet postings related to March 2011 protests. International and domestic observers have alleged that the authorities prosecute draft evasion selectively, and have singled out Hajiyev because of his political activities. He was convicted on May 18 of draft evasion and sentenced to two years imprisonment. This is not the first time Hajiyev has encountered problems with the government after utilizing the Internet for social activism; in 2007 the authorities arrested him after he established a web site to protest price increases. Savalanli, a young opposition Popular Front Party activist, was convicted on May 4 and sentenced to two and a half years in prison on drug charges considered to be spurious by human rights groups.

Enduring Freedoms, New Apps

Mr. Chairman, as you know, in the past, the Helsinki process was a major international platform for defending citizens expressing dissenting views via samizdat and for protesting the jamming of radio broadcasts. Two decades ago, in response to efforts by the Ceausescu regime to restrict citizens’ access to Xerox machines, an explicit commitment was included in the OSCE’s Copenhagen document pledging that “no limitation will be imposed on access to, and use of, means of reproducing documents of any kind.” Today, email, social networking and text messaging are new forms of samizdat as well as indispensible tools of commerce, education, and global communications.

As the United States has done since the inception of the Helsinki Process, so, too, in this new century, we stand with those in the OSCE region who seek to peacefully exercise their fundamental freedoms and promote and protect human rights, including via new technologies.

I commend Lithuania, which has made key themes of its Chairmanship media freedom via old and new technologies and the safety of journalists. We are particularly grateful for the tireless efforts of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Ms. Dunja Mijatovic and her dedicated staff to ensure that fundamental freedoms can be exercised via digital media, and I am delighted that she is here with us today. Last week, she co-organized with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights a Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Promotion of Pluralism in New Media. Her office is working on a matrix representing Internet laws and policies in the OSCE region to identify and encourage best practices and adherence to OSCE commitments on freedom of expression. Additionally, her office provides critical training to journalists in Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as legal reviews of OSCE participating States’ legislation, to advance broader respect for freedom of expression norms. Perhaps most critically, Ms. Mijatovic has been a voice for bloggers, journalists and other activists who are harassed or imprisoned for their work to disseminate independent information that is essential for democratic development.

Mr. Chairman, the Commission has long supported the vital role that non-governmental organizations play in the OSCE process. I am pleased to say that we are exploring creative ways that we can help connect human rights and democracy activists across the OSCE region through new technologies in order to enhance their ability to network with one another and leverage the contribution of their ideas and insights to the work of the OSCE. On her trip to Vilnius last week, Secretary Clinton spoke at a “tech camp” we organized to help civil society groups from the OSCE region and beyond use these new technologies most effectively.

I want also to emphasize, Mr. Chairman, that cyber issues are relevant to all three dimensions of the OSCE. As we partner with other governments, civil society and the business sector on ways we can safeguard against very real cyber security threats, we do so ever mindful that the measures we take must be consistent with our human dimension commitments to respect the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mr. Chairman, last year, in the run-up to the OSCE Summit in Astana, the U.S. advanced language for inclusion in the Summit Action Plan stating that the participating States, in fulfillment of their longstanding OSCE commitments, will permit their people to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association through Digital Age technologies. The language did not aim to create new commitments; rather it was designed to reinforce the message that existing commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms apply in the Digital Age. The language represents a conceptual breakthrough in that it recognizes that individuals and members of civil society organizations utilize digital technologies not only to exercise freedom of expression, but also to connect, network, form organizations, and gather in both virtual and real space. The language also highlights a key human dimension priority: defending and supporting the vital role of civil society in human rights protection and democratic development.

In Astana, our negotiators worked to advance our Digital Age language along with highly compatible language from the European Union related to freedom of expression.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, the Astana Summit did not adopt an Action Plan. We intend, however, to renew our efforts to advance our language on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age with a view to its adoption at the OSCE Ministerial in Vilnius this December. OSCE’s adoption of the Digital Age language would, I believe, mark the first time that any regional organization formally recognizes that respect for the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms must extend to the use of new technologies.

The United States will take every opportunity to work with the Lithuanian Chair, the EU, other participating States and civil society to ensure that the OSCE sends a clear message from Vilnius on Internet Freedom. If I were to distill that message into a tweet to the world, it would be: “Enduring Freedoms, New Apps.”

Mr. Chairman, when he signed the Helsinki Final Act 35 years ago, President Ford famously said that: “History will judge this Conference not by what we say here today, but by what we do tomorrow — not by the promises we make, but by the promises we keep.” He was right then, and his statement is even more true today. In this Digital Age, keeping our promises greatly depends on ensuring that the Internet is open and free.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Now I would be happy to answer your questions.


Internet Freedom and Human Rights: The Obama Administration’s Perspective

Assistant Secretary Posner at New America's Future Tense Conference, July 13, 2011
Assistant Secretary Posner at New America’s Future Tense Conference, July 13, 2011

Click here for more information about New America’s Future Tense Conference.

I want to thank Slate and Arizona State University for sponsoring today’s conversation on Internet freedom, which I believe is one of the game-changing human rights issues of our time.

And I want to thank Andres Martinez for inviting me here.

I get a lot of speaking invitations these days. But most of them are less cool. Usually the cool invitations go to Ian Schuler, our resident techie in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Ian will be speaking later this afternoon on a panel with Sascha Meinrath about the “Internet in a suitcase” program that the State Department is funding here at New America.

I’m particularly pleased to see here today so many thought leaders, policymakers, journalists, techies and activists. All of you have helped shape this conversation and many have helped governments, including our own, come to grips with the challenges and opportunities posed by these transformational new technologies.

We’re excited about the “internet in a suitcase” project, one of a number of cutting-edge technologies and projects that we’re investing in. It’s part of what Secretary of State Clinton calls a “venture capital approach” to addressing the wide range of challenges that democracy and human rights activists are facing in Internet repressive environments around the world.

By the end of this year, my bureau will have led the effort within the US government to award $70 million in grants. We’re supporting a dozen different circumvention technologies: a “panic button” app for mobile phones; a “slingshot” program to identify censored content that users are searching for in a particular country and fling it back over firewalls where ordinary citizens can get it; and training programs to help activists operating in repressive areas to keep operating, thwart surveillance and protect their privacy.

In short, we’re funding a whole slew of tools and techniques that empower users to gain access to information, organize them, tell their own stories and stay safe online.

But this is not just about technology. Secretary Clinton has put Internet freedom on the map as a key diplomatic priority, in our bilateral relationships and in multilateral institutions, including the UN Human Rights Council, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which just held a ministerial on these issues a few weeks ago, and others.

Many of you here today have urged us to not view Internet freedom in isolation, but to wrestle with the challenge of integrating Internet freedom with national security, combating cyber crime, protecting intellectual property, and other vital interests. This is what we’ve done in President Obama’s International Strategy for Cyberspace, which incorporates all of these legitimate interests. This is the hard part – it’s where Americans disagree not only with repressive governments but amongst ourselves. But we all agree on the importance of getting it right.

By now, every government understands the power of ordinary citizens to harness the Internet and social media to organize and express themselves. Some have embraced these new technologies as a way to connect with and serve their citizens. Others are redoubling their attempts to control them.

We are seeing the development of more sophisticated tools for cyber-repression, including filtering, surveillance, anti-circumvention, and network-disabling technologies by government security forces in closed societies.

We’re also witnessing the rise of cyber attacks on the computers of independent media, Distributed Denial of Service attacks on the sites of watchdog groups, and other attempts to thwart the work of civil society.

Before I joined this administration, I spent 30 years working on human rights issues from the low-tech NGO side. So today I want to refocus attention not on the technologies to fight Internet repression, but on the psychology of the repressors.

What causes a regime to perceive the Internet as such a profound threat that it is willing to damage its country’s economy by choking bandwidth, blocking content or even shutting down the network entirely? These are the acts of governments that fear their own people. In cracking down on the Internet, they expose their own lack of legitimacy. But these crackdowns also indicate a basic lack of understanding that free speech – whether it’s supportive speech or subversive speech – is harder than ever to suppress in the Digital Age. And the young people who have taken to the streets across the Arab world this year understand that it isn’t pornography or pirating that is being suppressed. It’s people. It’s their demands for dignity and a say in the political and economic future of their countries.

After all, Facebook does not foment dissent; people do. Twitter only amplifies those voices that have the most resonance, those ideas that people find most powerful. As President Obama said in a speech in Cairo in June 2009 — 19 months before the protests in Tahrir Square — “Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.”

Two billion people now have access to the Internet. That’s a lot of speech to try to suppress. In the next 20 years, nearly 5 billion more people will come online. Will they be joining a true global conversation over a single, unified global network? Or will they be entering a stilted alternative reality of government-approved content on controlled national intranets? This is the vision of the “halal” Internet being advocated by some in Iran, a course that would only deepen the country’s isolation and the Iranian authorities’ estrangement from their own citizens.

So let’s be honest: Governments that respect the rights of their citizens have no reason to fear a free Internet. The Internet didn’t topple the governments of Tunisia or Egypt; their people did. But smart governments are using social media tools to better communicate with and understand their own people — and to deliver services in a more open and accountable fashion. And they are recognizing that free access to tech tools spurs both social and economic progress.

If you really want to address popular discontent, you don’t need an army of censors deleting posts on social media sites. You need a cadre of government officials reading those posts and figuring out how to identify and address the legitimate grievances that are being expressed there.

So don’t shoot the instant messenger! Instead, address the underlying grievances — the corruption, the abuse of power, the environmental degradation, the lack of political and economic opportunity, the daily affronts to dignity by indifferent authorities. More than anything else, it is this quest for dignity that has prompted so many young people to walk away from their keyboards and into the streets to demand a chance to build a better future.

And it is their vision of the future that matters. This administration is working to support them. Our work on Internet freedom is not about messaging; it’s about empowerment. It is up to all the people of each country to build societies in which governments respect not some rights part of the time, but all of the rights of the governed, every day. The role of the international community is to offer support — technological and institutional.

Your generation – the digital natives — has developed new tools with unprecedented potential to empower people around the world to participate in a truly democratic process. The world is eager to see what you will invent next. But we’re equally eager for your help in forging international consensus and setting the expectations needed to support Internet freedom. It will be up to your generation to make this vision a reality for the 5 billion users – by setting the rules of the road on the Internet for the 21st century.

The human challenge of Internet freedom is to use technological tools to build a different kind of relationship between citizens, civil society and their governments — a relationship based not merely upon the consent of the governed, but upon broad participation in governance by all citizens. With your help, we will continue to put U.S. diplomatic power behind that vision of a more inclusive, peaceful and democratic world.

Thank you.


How to Ignite, or Quash, a Revolution in 140 Characters or Less

FutureTense with ASU/New America/Slate

FutureTense with ASU/New America/Slate

Do the Internet and social media empower Big Brother or individuals in autocratic regimes, or do they offer a rare level playing field? This year’s Arab Spring resurrected exuberant claims for the role of new technologies in spreading democracy. At the same time self-proclaimed “cyber-realists” were quick to point out that President Mubarak’s problems seemed to grow after he unplugged the Internet. Now, summer’s deadly stalemate in Syria has given pause to anyone peddling absolute theories about the interplay between new information technologies and revolution.   If not a panacea, how can social media and the Internet be deployed to maximize civic engagement in autocratic societies? Does the U.S. policy of supporting Internet freedom amount to a policy of regime change in some countries? When Big Brother does unplug the Internet, what can, or should, the rest of us do about it?

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #140rev


2:00 pm – Reflecting on the Tunisian Hair Trigger

Sami Ben Gharbia (from Tunisia) Co-founder, nawaat.org Advocacy Director, Global Voices Steve Coll President New America Foundation

2:20 pm – Internet Freedom and Human Rights: The Obama Administration’s Perspective

Michael H. Posner Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor U.S. Department of State Moderator Jacob Weisberg Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Slate Group

2:50 pm – Friending Revolutions: Social Media and Political Change in Egypt and Beyond

Merlyna Lim Professor, Consortium of Science, Policy and Outcomes and the School of Social Transformation – Justice and Social Inquiry Program Arizona State University

3:10 pm – How the Arab Spring Begat a Deadly Summer

Oula Alrifai Syrian Youth Activist Ahmed Al Omran Blogger, Saudijeans.org Andrew J. Tabler Next Generation Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy Author, In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of  Washington’s Battle Moderator Katherine Zoepf Schwartz Fellow, New America Foundation Contributor, New York Times

4:00 pm - Myths, Realities, and Inconvenient Truths of the Internet

Rebecca MacKinnon Senior Schwartz Fellow, New America Foundation Co-founder, Global Voices Online

4:30 pm – The View from Havana

Yoani Sanchez (via video) Blogger, desdecuba.com Human Rights Activist

4:45 pm – Internet Freedom’s Next Frontiers?

Omid Memarian Journalist Recipient, 2005 Human Rights Defender Award, Human Rights Watch Mary Jo Porter English Translator for Yoani Sanchez and other Cuban bloggers Co-founder, hemosoido.com and translatingcuba.com Marcus Noland Deputy Director, Peterson Institute for International Economics Author, Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea Moderator Andrés Martinez Co-Director, Future Tense Initiative Director, Bernard L. Schwartz Fellows Program, New America Foundation

5:20 pm – Bypassing the Master Switch

Sascha Meinrath Director, Open Technology Initiative New America Foundation Ian Schuler Senior Program Manager, Internet Freedoms Program U.S. Department of State Moderator Robert Wright Future Tense Fellow, New America Foundation Author, Nonzero, The Moral Animal, and The Evolution of God


Disclaimer: The Office of Policy Planning and Public Diplomacy, in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, of the U.S. Department of State manages this site as a portal for international human rights related information from the United States Government. External links to other internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.