At the front lines of the fight for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are human rights defenders, who often depend on the internet to communicate with fellow activists and to report on human rights violations to the international community. For the third year in a row, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva brought together human rights activists from different parts of the world to meet with fellow activists, U.S. and international government leaders, and members of civil society and the private sector. Since 2011, the Internet Freedom Fellows program has convened human rights activists from across the globe to Geneva, Washington and Silicon Valley to share experiences and lessons learned on the importance of a free Internet to the promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as fundamental human rights.
"The immense power of the internet as a tool for positive tool and for shared gain is inherently tied to its bottom up nature. A network is only as powerful as its users and their abilities to connect with one another," said Ambassador Betty King at an event hosted by the Internet Society in Geneva for this year's Internet Freedom Fellows. She continued, "The voices of those like Internet Freedom fellows are what give the internet its great potential. We must ensure that they continue and continue to be heard."
One of the central themes that emerged from this year's program is the importance of an open and multi-stakeholder Internet to freedom of expression and economic growth. Michael Anti, the fellow from China spoke candidly about how the internet has empowered the Chinese people to practice freedom of speech and to be more vocal about human rights violations in China. New Zealand Fellow Brownen Robertson discussed her work to increase the flow of information in and out of Iran. She said, "In Iran the internet is not just a political space, it is a human space because in the absence of all fora for expressing themselves in public spaces and often even in private spaces Iran's many and varied minority community very often have no other place to congregate except for online". Ghanaian Fellow Mac Jordan highlighted how mobile technology powered by the internet has spurred economic growth and helped farmers in his country.
Learn more about the fellows, their meetings and events and view photos on the Internet Freedom Fellows website.