UN against censoring Internet | Sibal in Damage Control Mode

New Delhi, Dec 9: Amidst raging controversy over the government of India’s proposal to monitor content in cyber space, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon Friday said access to the Internet and various social media must not be blocked as a way to prevent criticism and public debate.
In his speech on the eve of the Human Rights Day which was released at the United Nations Information Centre here, Moon said, “Today, within their existing obligation to respect the rights of freedom of assemble and expression, governments must not block access to the internet and various forms of social media as a way to prevent criticism and public debate.” His comments came a few days after Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had said the government will take steps to stop offensive and defamatory content on Internet sites.
Maintaining that the government does not want to interfere with the freedom of the press, Sibal on December 6 had said if the social networking sites are not willing to cooperate with us on stopping incendiary material “then it is the duty of the government to think of steps that we need”.
Emphasising on the important role that the social networking sites played in global events, Moon said, “Many of the people seeking their legitimate aspirations were linked through social media.”
Sibal In Damage Control Mode
Anil Anand adds from New Delhi: In a bid to stave off public criticism following widespread protestations on his statement to set guidelines barring objectionable content on social networking sites, Telecommunication Minister Kapil Sibal has pressed into the damage control mode.
He has decided to convene a roundtable conference of all the stakeholders related to this issue on December 15. The main aim of the meet is to clear doubts on the motive behind the move as also to undertake a preliminary exercise to evolve guidelines on the issue of censorship for social media sites.
Clarifying his earlier stand, Sibal said he was compelled to think of guidelines for barring objectionable content on social networking sites after they declined to do anything about the issue. “It was not my intent ever to interfere with the social media. I wanted them to evolve their own guidelines. But if somebody throws up their hands, we will have to evolve some guidelines,” he further clarified.
Although, the Telecommunication Ministry has maintained a studied silence on who have been invited to the roundtable conference, it is learnt that the primary discussions would be held with senior representatives of Google and Facebook. Earlier also, the Ministry had held talks with them prior to Sibal’s statement on issuance of guidelines.
“I wanted a solution, a dialogue with them and deal with this issue in a sensible responsible manner,” the minister told media-persons.


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