Us, Japan and EU sign declaration on free internet

Us, Japan and EU sign declaration on free internet

The United States, Japan and the European Union on Thursday endorsed a declaration to promote an open and free internet amid concerns about digital authoritarianism seen in countries such as Russia and China.

Some 60 partners around the world, including the Group of Seven Industrialized Nations, Australia, Taiwan and Ukraine, have joined the initiative, which opposes the use of digital tools to repress freedom of expression and deny other human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The declaration said that they were united by the belief in the potential of digital technologies to promote connectivity, democracy, peace, the rule of law, sustainable development, and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

During an online event to mark the launch of the declaration, Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yasushi Kaneko expressed his strong support for the initiative, and welcomed it as an important commitment to protect efforts toward a free and open internet.

The declaration said countries should not be affected by government shutdowns, blocking access to lawful internet content and services, while protecting privacy and advancing what they view as trustworthy network infrastructure and service suppliers.

The principles that include the promotion of human rights and affordable internet access are not legally binding.

A senior official in the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden said the last few months have given an extreme example of digital authoritarianism in connection with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and that the declaration did not specifically name authoritarian regimes that are posing challenges.

Russia has promoted disinformation at home and abroad, censored internet news sources, blocked and shut down legitimate sites, among other things, the official said.

In the online event hosted by the White House, Ukraine's Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said technologies such as satellite imagery have helped shed light on the brutal killings of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, potential war crimes for which Russia has denied responsibility.

Fedorov said that truth is the only effective weapon against Russia.

The Biden administration has also been wary of China, saying it is among the leaders in a dangerous new model of internet policy. A 2021 report by human rights group Freedom House said the conditions for internet users in China were deeply oppressive and confirmed the country's status as the world's worst abuser of internet freedom for the seventh consecutive year.

The report said that the Chinese government censored calls for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID 19 epidemic, which was first detected in the central city of Wuhan before it spread to other parts of the world, and criticised Chinese-produced vaccines.

According to Biden administration officials, the United States is expecting more like-minded countries to come on board to support the move.

India, the world's largest democracy and known for its traditionally close ties with Russia, was not among the economies that joined the launch of the declaration, they said.