UK Civil Society Calls on the Tunisian Government to Improve its Record on Freedom of Expression before the WSIS

UK civil society communique on the World Summit on the Information Society calls on Tunisian government to improve civil rights and freedom of expression. The communique summarising the conclusions of a British Council organised conference and submitted to the Foreign Office says:


"WSIS II must reinforce and seek full implementation of internationally recognised guarantees on the right to freedom of expression and access to information. The Tunisian government as host country should set an example, by introducing improvements in civil rights and freedom of expression."


The full text is below and online at:

http://www.britishcouncil.org/wsis.htm



Executive summary:

WSIS UK Participation Day 24 May 2005

‘UK Civil Society speaks’


We have grouped together the key messages from the British Council facilitated event for your consideration. The one day event brought together 88 Civil Society representatives from Government, Academia, Media, Business and NGOs, to discuss thematic approaches to the UK’s involvement in WSIS. The Manchester based event attracted a diverse group of delegates with a focussed approach, leading to consensus on the following points:


Freedom of Expression and Information Societies:


• WSIS II must reinforce and seek full implementation of internationally recognised guarantees on the right to freedom of expression and access to information. The Tunisian government as host country should set an example, by introducing improvements in civil rights and freedom of expression.

• UK is seen as an international leader in the Information Society and therefore will have experiences which others may find valuable


Media Diversity and Information Societies:


• The media is an essential tool in promoting good governance and citizenship. Governments should take particular account of the importance of community media and other grass-root activities to drive creation of an inclusive information society

• Government investment should drive sustainable business models, which join up mainstream business drivers of government, industry and civil society


Democratic decision making and Information Societies:


• Civil society groups have played a valuable role in highlighting the social impact of the Internet and its governance. Sections of civil society have experience of the various funding and governance approaches for activities involving ICTs. These have led to innovative and effective developments helping towards poverty eradication, enabling change, promoting citizenship and gender empowerment

• It is important that the UK delegation actively seeks to draw on existing expertise and encourage direct peer-to-peer outreach and communications within civil society, for both a sustainable and innovative model of Information Society


Recommendations for future consultation


For UK Civil Society to be more effective in the consultation process with UK government, we have the following suggestions:


• Invitations for future consultations to be made earlier for a more meaningful input from Civil Society (e.g. WTO, WIPO and UNESCO)

• Consultation at the initial planning phase will lead to real and widespread engagement on issues relating to communication and information

• For example, this worked well with the Commission for Africa Report (released 11 March), which contained over 60 references, comments and recommendations related to information and communications. This highlighted the greater need for effective and consistent policies on these issues across the board".



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For any further information please contact:

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Steve Buckley

Email: sbuckley@gn.apc.org