Internet Access, a “Human Right” or Essential Facility?

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Internet Access, a “Human Right” or Essential Facility?

By: Kolubahzizi T. Howard
Director of Strategy, Liberia Telecommunications Authority


“Human rights” proponents believe all individuals have entitlements by virtue of being human . These “entitlements” exist as either shared norms justified by moral rationalization; natural rights supported by strong reasons; or legal rights enshrined in national or international law . However, no consensus of the nature of what should be regarded as human rights has evolved and remains a subject of serious debate . The declaration of Internet access as a “basic right” is one such debate.

Arguments in Favor

Internet access is a communications medium that allows individuals to express ideas and opinions globally and provides access to new ideas, opinions and information than previously possible. A connection is seen between human rights and the Internet as a “democratizing” medium uniquely suited to promote human rights by enabling coordination of action, establishment of contacts, exposing of human rights violations, soliciting action, and gathering information. The freedom of expression, assembly and association online has been termed the freedom to connect .

Article 19 declares that everyone has the right to “hold opinions without interference … to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers” . This right of information is buttered by the 2003 WSIS Declaration.

Information and the Internet are seen as human rights and access to information technology is required to secure that right; making it therefore a human right . Internet access is seen as a basic right because it plays a role in three components of our rights to realize our full potential: freedom of expression, democratic participation, and economic livelihood . This position is accepted by France and Finland which recognized the Internet as a fundamental human right in 2009 .

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