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Minister opens internet conference in Tunisia

Frans Timmermans, Minister of Foreign Affairs, opens the third Freedom Online conference with a speech on internet freedom.

'The internet offers great opportunities to promote human rights,’ according to the Minister. ‘For example, if people discover electoral fraud at a polling booth, they can use a smartphone to alert the world right away. Violations of human rights, such as the freedom of expression, are increasingly encroaching on the use of new technology. Take for example the recent blocking of opposition websites in Iran.’

The third Freedom Online conference is taking place in Tunis from 17-18 June. The Netherlands chairs the global Freedom Online Coalition, comprised of 21 countries. During the two-day conference bloggers, hackers, companies and governments are meeting to discuss internet freedom, the balance between online liberty and security, and the responsibility of governments and companies for an open and transparent internet.

The Minister also launched StoryMaker, an app that enables citizen journalists and activists to report events live as they unfold. The app – which can be used to film, edit and share reports safely – was developed by Free Press Unlimited and partners and financed by the Netherlands through the Human Rights Fund (Mensenrechtenfonds).

Mr Timmermans spoke extensively with bloggers at the event, who told him about the problems they face, such as obstruction by the authorities, intimidation and imprisonment. For instance, Tunisian rapper Weld El 15 was given a two-year prison sentence for his online activities. The Minister promised to raise the matter with the Tunisian government.

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