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August 2015

This is the newsletter of the Freedom Online Coalition. The aim of the newsletter is to share information among Coalition members, highlight both emerging threats and positive new initiatives as well as help coordinate action that promotes the Coalition's objectives for a free and secure internet for all. 

FOC Updates


Freedom Online Coalition welcomes Poland as its 27th member

On July 2nd, the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC) welcomed Poland as its newest member. By becoming a member, Poland has committed to upholding and advancing the Coalition’s shared goals and values as stated in the FOC Founding Declaration and the Tallinn Recommendations for Freedom Online. As noted in their letter of intent, “Poland is strongly committed to ensuring that all rights and freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Article 19, are fully and universally enjoyed by all. […] These rights have to be respected and protected both online and offline regardless of the form of communication.” As a member of the Coalition, Poland joins 26 other FOC countries in their efforts to protect and promote online freedoms – free expression, association, assembly, and privacy online – domestically and abroad through joint activities and active engagement with civil society and the private sector.

FOC Working Group Updates



WG1, now under the co-chairmanship of Matthew Shears from CDT and the Dutch Government, is in the process of refining its draft recommendations on fostering human rights based approaches to cybersecurity. To contextualise the recommendations and to link them to the definition of cybersecurity that the WG formulated in 2014, the WG is developing an accompanying narrative which is meant to be shared with the broader community at the IGF in November. The latest issue of the WG blog series which explores the role and mandate of the ITU as it relates to cybersecurity is available here. The group is also looking to continue its work on mapping cybersecurity-related events and processes by expanding the current timeline to 2016.  


Following the discussions at the FO Conference in Mongolia, WG2 decided to focus its work on two specific issue-areas - freedom of expression and data protection & privacy - which will be explored through designated sub-groups. The two sub-groups are currently in the process of identifying key issues and selecting country-based case studies. The data protection & privacy sub-group has already drafted a memo on related problems, rationale, and key issues. Suggested focus countries include countries with ongoing major reforms of security regulation and/or high surveillance possibilities. Suggested outcomes include a mapping of legislation and regulatory decisions, development of guidelines and best practices for private firms, states, and regulators. Both groups will report on progress on the next WG call in August, and updated work will be presented at the IGF in November. The case studies are meant to be finalised by the end of the year. In addition, the group is planning to launch a blog series.  


WG3 is currently taking renewal and new applications for members, with a deadline of COB August 5th. The group focuses on the relationship between governments and information & communications technology (ICT) companies, with a particular emphasis on respecting human rights, including freedom of expression and privacy. The group is currently finalising its report on government and company transparency reporting which is due for publication in August.
© Thomas Samson, AFP | France’s Constitutional Council



Mass surveillance in Pakistan: a violation of international standards

Pakistan's intelligence agency has been trying to build a sophisticated surveillance network, vast in scope, recording the phone calls and Internet data of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, according to a new report by Privacy International.. According to the report, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) tried to tap on global Internet traffic through undersea cables, and that it had contracted intermediary companies to buy spying toolkits from Chinese and Western firms for domestic surveillance. It also claims that the practical surveillance capacity of the Pakistani government and Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) has exceeded local and international regulation laws for surveillance.

Related news stories:

Hacking Team hacked: firm implicated in selling spying tools to repressive regimes

In July, the cybersecurity firm Hacking Team became the centre of international attention after an alleged hack resulted in 400GB worth of documents being leaked via the firm's own Twitter feed. The documents, the origin of which has not been verified, implicate the firm in practices that include selling spying tools to repressive regimes - something it has previously explicitly denied doing. The Italy-based company offers security services to law enforcement and national security organisations, including legal offensive security services, using malware and vulnerabilities to gain access to target’s networks.

Related news stories:

Innovative handbook on international laws protecting journalists

An innovative handbook was recently published that aims to become the ultimate tool for journalists and bloggers worldwide seeking guidance on the international legal framework protecting their rights to freedom of expression. Produced by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and Paul Hastings, the Defence Handbook for Journalists and Bloggers is unique in its kind as it focuses specifically on the application of international legal principles to the work of journalists. It also includes previous decisions and recommendations made by international and regional bodies and courts in relation to various aspects of freedom of speech.

Related news stories:

Members of Ethiopia’s ‘Zone9′ bloggers released

In April of last year, seven men and two women linked to a local Ethopian blog called Zone9 were arrested under Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism proclamation. Some had worked as professional journalists, and most were contributors to the blog, which criticised the government’s human rights record. On July 8 and 9, five of the nine in prison – Edom Kassaye, Zelalem Kibret, Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, Tesfalem Waldeyes and Mahlet Fantahun – were suddenly released. Reeyot Alemu, another journalist who had been in jail under similar charges since June 2011, was also freed on July 9. Of all African countries, Ethiopia remains second only to in Eritrea in the number of journalists imprisoned, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Related news stories:

Defence Handbook for Journalists & Bloggers Front Cover. Image: REUTERS Stephanie Mahe

Upcoming Events


LACIGF, 03-07 August 

On 3-7 August, the Regional Latin American and the Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (LACIGF) will be held at the Mexican Department of Foreign Affairs, along with the Fifth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean. Over time, the Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum, LACIGF, has become a true regional meeting space for multistakeholder policy debate where different stakeholders representing governments, the private sector, the technical community, academia and civil society organizations share and discuss their views. In addition, since its earliest editions, one of the meeting's goals has been to inform regional stakeholders on the topics and trends observed during global IGF debates and discussions.

WSIS+10 Review: release of non-paper, end of August

As part of the ongoing WSIS+10 Review Process, all member states, observers, and other relevant stakeholders were invited during the month of July to provide inputs on the desired elements and content of a “non-paper” that is due to be released at the end of August 2015. The paper will be the basis of the final outcome document to be adopted at the High-level meeting of the General Assembly on the WSIS+10 Review in December. The non-paper will aim to capture stakeholder perspectives on progress made in the implementation of the WSIS outcomes, remaining gaps and areas for continued focus, as well as challenges, including bridging the digital divide, and harnessing information and communications technologies for development.
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