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United States: News and Press Freedom Organizations Stand Up for Real Net Neutrality
an article by Wagatwe Wanjuki, Freepress

Last month, four journalism and press freedom groups - the Newspaper Association of America, the American Society of News Editors, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia - filed comments to the FCC in support of true Net Neutrality. This filing highlights how crucial the open Internet is for news organizations to thrive and for people to access the information they need.

click on photo to enlarge

Newspapers and other forms of media are an integral part of a healthy democracy - which is why these groups decided to take a stand against FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to allow discrimination online. Allowing a two-tiered Internet would create a Web where the content providers with the most money and power would be the most visible. Without Net Neutrality, we would no longer have unfettered access to news and information.

As the Internet and related technology have become an essential part of our lives, journalism has made the shift online. According to the Pew Research Center, half of all Americans now rely on the Internet as their main source of both national and international news. The free flow of information the open Internet enables allows us to access the pressing news stories of our time. And the Internet has given news organizations more tools to hold those in power accountable.

The Internet has changed not just how we access media but also how we consume it. News outlets can offer video interviews, stunning visual images and interactive websites to accompany their reporting. There is a level of engagement and immersion available to audiences that traditional print cannot facilitate.

The ability to access news online has also increased interaction with others. Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have created infinite hubs within communities that foster conversations about the world around us. This dynamic creates opportunities to learn not just from media outlets but from each other.

When we’re able to freely connect and communicate online, we’re empowered to make informed choices. This is why it’s so important for news organizations to be able to connect with us on a level playing field. As the filing notes:

In addition to educating and reporting, the press serves as the public’s independent watchdog, charged with keeping governments, businesses and other organizations in check. This work is increasingly moving online as newspapers and other publishers move to digital and mobile platforms to provide readers with news and information when and how they want to receive it. The Internet is also a key source of information in the newsgathering process, as these media outlets interact with the public — via their own websites and others — to acquire and confirm important information.

That dialogue between news outlets and the public won’t exist without the open Internet. Indeed, it won’t just be the media that loses out if we don’t have Net Neutrality. Our democracy will suffer as well.


Question(s) related to this article:

Is Internet freedom a basic human right?,

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Here are additional remarks from the speech by Mary Robinson.

It has been inspiring to see how new communications technologies have allowed us to expand the space for public debate in recent years. The internet has enabled an explosion of information and expression worldwide, and while I am sceptical about claims that Twitter and Facebook ‘caused’ events like the Arab Awakening, it is evident that social media was an indispensable tool in the dissemination of uncensored information and the coordination of public protests in the region.

This raises questions concerning the role of companies and highlights a critical gap – many business leaders are taking major decisions on their own, often without a firm understanding of their impacts on human rights. To help mainstream respect for human rights in corporate decision-making, the European Commission has embarked on a project to develop guidance for three critical industry sectors, including information and communication technologies, which are so important in today’s world. My colleagues at the Institute for Human Rights and Business and Shift are working with the Commission to develop this guidance in order to give practical meaning to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were adopted in 2011.

As these tools become more accessible to people around the world – by 2020 there will be an estimated 5 billion people with access to the internet – civil society becomes better-equipped to engage in public life. Citizens have used mobile phones and internet platforms to record human rights abuses, pressure leaders to become more accountable, and connect and work together across borders. As one young Egyptian told us, “the only borders now are on maps.”

At the same time, our expectations are getting higher – and this is a good thing. When we are used to finding information freely available online, we expect to have the right to access that information without restriction. When we see various world leaders on Twitter, we expect to be able to contact our own leaders directly through such platforms. . ...more.

This report was posted on October 19, 2014.