The Internet Freedom Fellows program brings human rights activists from across the globe to Geneva, Washington, and Silicon Valley to meet with fellow activists, U.S. and international government leaders, and members of civil society and the private sector engaged in technology and human rights. A key goal of the program is 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.

Communication shapes the way societies are built and every person should have the right to express his/her ideas, feelings and emotions as well as hopes for the future. The protection of an individual’s right to freedom of expression and assembly is an integral part of a free and democratic society where these rights are essential human rights. In the beginning of 21st century a new challenge facing all societies is Internet Freedom.  Ensuring that individuals have the same rights of freedom of expression and assembly on the Internet as they are entitled to elsewhere is one of the human rights challenges of the present moment.

As Secretary Clinton outlined in her remarks in The Hague on December 8, 2011, “This is an urgent task for those around the world whose words are now censored, who are imprisoned because of what they or others have written online, who are blocked from accessing entire categories of internet content, or who are being tracked by governments seeking to keep them from connecting with one another.”

The principal goal of the program is simple — to highlight the essential importance of a free internet to the promotion of human rights at the grass roots level.  By identifying and involving grass roots human rights activists from around the world, the program will highlight in a tangible manner why and how a free internet is essential to their work.

In building the program, we have continued to strengthen and broaden it.  In particular, we continue to work with previous years’ Fellows to build networks that can strengthen and defend freedom of expression across the globe.  In recognition of the important interplay between global networks and individual freedoms, we continue to seek greater involvement from civil society and technology companies in the discussion of internet freedom and how these different actors can and must work together to protect individual freedoms on the internet in the support of Human Rights.

The program has three parts, including in Geneva, Washington, D.C. and Silicon Valley.

The Geneva program is an intensive set of public events and closed meetings with human rights professionals and activists from across Geneva, including representatives from the UN, civil society and diplomats from across the globe.   The program includes a high profile, live-streamed event at the Human Rights council with an active global social media component as well as a one-day symposium (the “Internet Freedom Forum”) at the U.S. Mission. The symposium is dedicated to the on-the-ground realities of the importance of internet freedom to human rights and the importance of free and open global networks for human rights. At both events the Fellows and experts from around the world discuss and present their work and the challenges they face in the field and explain why internet freedom is so important to what they do. The one-day symposium is dedicated to presenting and discussing the intersection between human rights, human rights activism, connection technologies and Internet Freedom.

The Washington program is similar to the Geneva program in that it includes meetings with key USG and civil society representatives involved in the fields of human rights and internet freedom as well as a public event at which the Fellows will discuss and present their work in the field of human rights and why internet freedom is so important to what they do.

In Silicon Valley the program includes meetings with representatives of leading technology companies involved in work relevant to the world of journalists and activists engaged in promoting human rights globally.  The Fellows also participate in a public seminar organized by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation

Launched in 2011, the Internet Freedom Fellows program is an initiative of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Core partners for the 2013 Program are digital communications expert John Horniblow; gMedia, a Geneva based NGO which works to empower media to further civil society goals; and Meridian International Center, a Washington D.C. based NGO promoting international understanding through exchange programs. We are also collaborating with the Internet Society and with Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation for specific events during the program.

g-media150 meridian