IPI World Congress addresses risks of the future UN cybercrime treaty on press freedom
Amidst a global increase in the misuse of cybercrime laws to target journalists, a panel of experts at the International Press Institute (IPI) 2023 World Congress and Media Innovation Festival emphasized the importance of safeguarding freedom of expression in the development of a UN treaty on cybercrime by states.
States must ensure that the planned UN treaty on cybercrime does not undermine freedom of expression, a panel of experts stated at the International Press Institute (IPI) 2023 World Congress and Media Innovation Festival, amid a global rise in the misuse of cybercrime laws to target journalists.
The panel expressed concern that cybercrime laws are increasingly being used to criminalize a wide range of online speech, as governments have used vaguely defined provisions in such laws, including ‘cyber defamation’, ‘cyberterrorism’, national security, or false news, to harass independent media. While governments in South and Central Asia had previously used means such as licensing or advertising pressure to control mainstream media, they are now using cybercrime laws to prevent online spaces.
Fears grow as UN member states are drafting a global cybercrime treaty. The treaty threatens to open the door to abuse. Tanja Fachathaler, the policy advisor at a Vienna-based digital rights organization, expressed concerns over the draft treaty’s broad scope of crimes and expansive law enforcement powers, noting that the draft includes a range of substantive crimes around vaguely defined concepts such as incitement, extremism, and terrorism.