The UN Human Rights Council [official website] on Thursday passed the its first-ever resolution to protect the free speech of individuals online. The resolution was approved by all 47 members of the council [Reuters report], including China and Cuba, who have been criticized for limiting Internet freedom. The resolution is written to guarantee Internet freedom, including the free flow of information and freedom of expression. It was passed at the 20th Session [materials] of the council in Geneva. While the resolution is the UN's first on the issue, the UN International Telecommunication Union has applied the principle since 2003. The US co-sponsored the Swedish-led motion with countries that included Brazil and Tunisia.
Internet Freedom remains a controversial issue around the world. Last month, the Chinese Ministry of Information and Technology revealed its proposed changes to Chinese Internet law [JURIST report] that seek to limit the ability of users to post anonymous comments on micro-blogs and forums. A Bangkok criminal court in May sentenced [JURIST report] Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of independent Internet news site Prachatai, to an eight-month suspended sentence for failing to delete defamatory comments against Thailand's royal family. Earlier that month, a Dutch court ordered [JURIST report] Internet service providers in the Netherlands to block the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay or else pay a fine of USD $12,750 per day.