UNESCO Statement on the withdrawal of patronage of the International day for freedom of expression on the internet organized by Reporters Without Borders
UNESCO has withdrawn its patronage of the Online Free Expression Day,
organized by the non-governmental organization, Reporters Without Borders.
UNESCO reiterates its support for freedom of expression on the internet
but felt compelled to withdraw patronage following the publication of
information by RSF which did not follow the arrangements agreed upon
between the two organizations concerning the event.
Following a request from RSF, made through the French National Commission
for UNESCO*, the Director-General of UNESCO Koïchiro Matsuura, in a letter
dated 22 February 2008, granted UNESCO patronage to the international day.
This letter clearly indicated, however, that the Organization could not“be associated with the activities envisaged for this occasion” by RSF.
In its communications on the day, RSF published material concerning a
number of UNESCO’s Member States, which UNESCO, had not been informed of
and could not endorse. Furthermore, UNESCO’s logo was placed in such a way
as to indicate the Organization’s support of the information presented.
UNESCO has a clear mandate to defend the free flow of information and
freedom of expression. It does so using the channels and fora of a UN
intergovernmental organization, respecting the sovereignty of its 193
Member States. For example, UNESCO spearheaded debate in favour of freedom
of expression on the internet throughout the UN-organized World Summit of
the Information Society and continues to do so in the Internet Governance
Forum, an ongoing UN dialogue on the future of the internet.
*UNESCO National Commissions serve as liaison bodies between UNESCO and
its Member States. They are funded by their national governments.