Highlighting the need for freedom of expression, the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) chief on Sunday called for a global declaration to protect social media activists.
HE Dr Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri was addressing the opening session of International Conference on 'Social Media: Challenges and Ways to Promote Freedoms and Protect Activists,’ at Ritz Carlton Doha.
The two-day conference, held under the auspices of HE the Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, was opened in the presence of several ministers, diplomats, other dignitaries and over 500 delegates from around the world.
The event is organised by the NHRC in co-operation and co-ordination with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Parliament, the International Federation of Journalists and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.
“Restrictions on individual liberties neither bring stability nor establish peace. Furthermore, ways to achieve prosperity, development and democracy are only possible when freedom is realised in a way that would allow expression, criticism and creativity,” HE Dr al-Marri said in his opening speech.
“Therefore, we demand: a global declaration to protect social media activists; to take into account civic space and protection of activists, when developing or adopting new human rights agreements; to bring more international attention to this cause and to place it as one of the main issues in global dialogues and agendas of international organisations, including meetings of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations and the Subcommittee on Human Rights in the European Parliament and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions to devote attention to the issue of 'expanding the civic space and protecting activists' in its strategy and action programmes,” explained HE Dr al-Marri.
The NHRC president noted that during the past year, Qatar has launched numerous initiatives to combat cybercrimes and piracy and this conference comes to support these initiatives and global initiatives in the context of respecting human rights and identifying responsibilities.
“This conference is extremely important and vital, as it aims to discuss the opportunities that social media have created for promoting human rights, and to explore recurrent forms of interference in the use of social media,” he noted.
HE Dr al-Marri affirmed that the restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion cannot go beyond the limits permitted by the international and regional human rights conventions, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee interpretations.
The NHRC chief also said that he looks forward to reach outcomes that address issues of concern, support freedom, and protect activists and human rights defenders.
He also appealed for developing shared understanding between the various stakeholders on key opportunities, risks and good practices for action to enlarge civic space in and through social media and developing ways to address the challenges and threats faced by social media activists.
“We also call for identifying future activities that would broaden civic space in the social media and lead to a network for future co-operation and co-ordination addressing legislation, policies, regulatory tools or other initiatives to ensure the use of social media for human rights and expanding partnerships and capacity to address hate speech and incitement to discrimination in social media, and lead to a compilation of good practices and lessons learned,” he added.
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