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June 27, 2011 | Peter Bradwell

Replies from Ed Vaizey MP

We have received two replies from Ed Vaizey MP following letters we sent to him regarding the UN Special Rapporteur's report on freedom of expression online and the lack of representation from rights groups such as ORG in the ongoing website blocking roundtables. Both replies are copied in full below. In the former he stresses that:

"The Government has responded to the Human Rights Council, welcoming the Special Rapporteur's report and supporting the general thrust of his conclusions and recommendations."

In the latter, he says:

"I do appreciate that there are broad interests in this area, and we are keen that progress made by the working group is transparent. I hope that all those with an interest will be able to feed into the process at some stage."

This has been followed by some positive responses on Twitter. The Minister on Friday seemed to welcome James Firth's suggestion that he open up his policy roundtables. He says he has taken on board suggestions first about meeting the British Computing Society and Open Rights Group, and subsequently a broader range of organisations too. This follows ORG being invited late last week to meet Ed Vaizey, in two weeks time, to discuss our concerns with him.

Much of this movement has to be down to the great work of those who have written to their MPs over the past few days – over 7000 so far. If you haven't already, please consider writing to them now. It's working!

Here are the Minister's replies, both dated 20th June.

"Dear Jim,

Thank you for your letter of 3rd June to the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sports, drawing his attention to the Special Rapporteur's report on web blocking measures and the possible impact on human rights, particularly freedom of expression and privacy. I am replying in view of my responsibility for communications policy.

I am aware of the Special Rapporteur's report. The Government agrees that the individual has the right to free and uncensored access to the internet, and that States should only interfere in exceptional situations. We agree that the degree of interference should be proportionate to the risks involved. We believe that such measures should not be adopted lightly, but we will do so if convinced that it is appropriate, proportionate, in accordance with international legal obligations and effective on the basis of evidence in the future.

The Government has responded to the Human Rights Council, welcoming the Special Rapporteur's report and supporting the general thrust of his conclusions and recommendations. We continue to support the work of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. I understand you are due to see officials shortly to discuss site-blocking issues. I'm sure they would be happy to discuss this issue at the same time if you wish.

Ed Vaizey MP
Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries"



"Dear Jim,

Thank you for your letter of 6th June asking why Open Rights Group was not invited to the website blocking working group round table discussion, which took place on 15 June as opposed to 10 June as your letter stated.

The discussions at the working group are at a very early stage. I do appreciate that there are broad interests in this area, and we are keen that progress made by the working group is transparent. I hope that all those with an interest will be able to feed into the process at some stage. You know, of course, that Julian Huppert MP was at the meeting, and I believe he is on the board of Open Rights Group.

I understand my officials have been in touch with you directly in relation to this meeting and will be meeting with you to discuss.

Ed Vaizey MP
Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries"

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Comments (4)

  1. Johnny Juliano:
    Jun 27, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    Excellent progress. I am a huge believer in freedom of speech, the internet included & we, as citizens, need to protect that right. Also, I find it slightly inspirational that there have been over 7-000 letter received.

  2. cyberdoyle:
    Jun 28, 2011 at 10:08 PM

    We fed information into them for ages before they put that act through washup. We all wrote to our MPs then, and mine informed me she wasn't going to the vote because 'it wouldn't get through'.
    What makes us confident they will listen to common sense now?
    chris

    1. Jim Killock:
      Jun 30, 2011 at 09:49 AM

      Hi Chris, politics takes time to shift. It’s slower than people and change comes from the ground up. Getting people to join the Digital Economy All Parliamentary Group. Building a coalition behind this EDM, it’s all about making politicians understand that the Internet and digital communication is critical to us, and that our human rights need to apply to it.

      I'm really impressed by the quick growing numbers of signatories to EDM 1913. It’s clear some MPs want to listen to their constituents. Let’s see how many we can persuade to sign.

  3. Jake:
    Jul 06, 2011 at 05:43 AM

    I sent a letter - hopefully, with other 7000 signatures, they will start to listen! :)



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