Defending solidarity and human rights after the attacks in Paris and Beirut

Following the horrific attacks in Paris and Beirut, Access Now sends our deepest condolences to the victims. As families and nations around the world grieve in the face of these attacks, we encourage governments to respect and protect human rights both online and offline when developing a response.

We have learned much from government reactions to previous attacks — including those in Mumbai in 2008 and New York in 2001. At the time, authorities understandably sought additional powers to combat emerging threats. Unfortunately, such measures did not necessarily provide greater security, and often clamped down on the human rights of their citizens. Years later, we are still trying to roll back many of those hastily-made decisions.

France has already passed four pieces of rights-restricting legislation to combat terrorism over the past two years. We expect it to consider new measures in the coming days. We ask that policymakers reject any measure that would undermine human rights by trampling on privacy, free expression, or due process.

At this time, the global community should respond by fostering greater respect for human rights, not less.

Rather than push through rights-harming policies, we encourage governments to reflect on how people most directly affected by the attacks responded last last week: with solidarity on- and offline. In Paris, people came together on social media through the use of the hashtag #porteouverte (meaning “open door” or “shelter”), to allow victims to seek safety. Others lined up to donate blood for victims. And people around the world have shown their support for France and Lebanon by posting messages over the internet, or by adorning landmarks with candles and flowers representing the colors of their national flags.

These are just some examples that demonstrate how the free flow of information and increased connectivity lead to safer societies during times of crisis. This is a moment to grieve but also take stock of, and protect, our very best values, so many of which are embodied by the open internet. This includes encryption, a crucial tool for protecting freedom of expression and the privacy of all.

If countries react to this new tragedy by turning upon themselves and surveilling, harassing, or detaining their own innocent people, then the terrorists will have won.

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