Internet Freedom Fellows Find an Ally in UNESCO
June 28, 2012 BY Aaron Sherinian
Two years ago, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said, “We need to work toward a world in which access to networks and information brings people closer together and expands the definition of the global community.” This week, I saw her call to action happening live, as a group of six Internet Freedom Fellows, brought together by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Mission in Geneva, sat down to break bread with UNESCO and the United Nations Foundation here in our Washington D.C. offices.
These Fellows—all of whom are working to promote and defend freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and other human rights on the Internet—hailed from Syria, India, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Venezuela and Azerbaijan. Despite their diverse backgrounds, I watched them find common ground and a common ally in their meeting with UNESCO. As George Papagiannis, UNESCO's head of U.S. external relations, welcomed the group, he noted that UNESCO is devoted to “promoting freedom of expression, freedom of the press, access to information and a free and open internet.” As George spoke, I was reminded of the exceptional work UNESCO does around the world to promote press freedom and independence as fundamental components of democracy.
The Internet Freedom Fellows often face an array of challenges, barriers and, in many cases threats in their work to advance freedoms of speech and expression. They need friends throughout the world to support them. They found those friends here in Washington, and we’re honored that the United Nations Foundation could convene these extraordinary voices and open new doors for collaboration. The Fellows embody an ideal that Americans cherish as one of our most intrinsic rights—something we enshrine in our First Amendment—and a value that UNESCO likewise holds as a basic human right.
Be sure to track the Internet Freedom Fellows online!
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