Many organizations across the world are seeing troubling cases arise of criminal persecution against digital security researchers. In this context, at IGF Berlin 2019, several NGOs, activists, academics, and technologists held a session to coordinate actions to fight this global trend.
As a product of that meeting and a first step, we signed the following statement asking governments to stop this course of action and to protect the work of digital security researchers and trainers.
Protecting their work helps to keep our shared online civic space safe, ensure a secure infrastructure, and defend human rights.
The statement is still open for signatures, and we encourage your organization to join us. You can email your request to sign on to [email protected].
STATEMENT FOR THE PROTECTION OF DIGITAL RIGHTS DEFENDERS
The undersigning civil society organizations express our concern over the global trend of persecuting digital rights defenders, including security researchers and trainers who act to protect and promote human rights. We demand the strong protection of their work and their recognition as human rights defenders.
Either through laws that criminalize their activity or through judicial persecution meant to silence and punish them, their work and lives are being jeopardized. This trend has a detrimental effect on human rights, both online and off. Cases like the political interference in the criminal case against Ola Bini in Ecuador, the investigation and the arbitrary measures taken against Javier Smaldone in Argentina, as well as the cases of Alaa Abd El-Fattah in Egypt, Fikret Baskaya in Turkey, Ahmed Mansoor in the UAE, and many others, are part of a growing and dangerous global trend.
The work digital rights defenders do in defense of privacy is fundamental for the protection of human rights. When they raise awareness about the existence of vulnerabilities in systems, they allow the public and private sector to find solutions that improve infrastructure and software security for the benefit of the public. Furthermore, their work as security advisers for journalists and human rights activists is of vital importance for the safety of journalists, activists, and other human rights defenders. 1
The work of digital rights defenders is a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and, as such, it must be protected. The Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression from the Organization of American States and the United Nations have expressed concern for the detention and prosecution of digital rights defenders like Ola Bini.2 Coding is just another form of expressing ideas in what is usually known as high-level languages. More importantly, their research is a manifestation of seeking, receiving, and sharing information. 3 This right is essential when the information sought is critical for public governance, protecting privacy, and infrastructure safety.
We reject all persecution of digital rights defenders. We demand the recognition of their work at the legal, social, and political levels. Digital rights defenders should also be recognized as human rights defenders when they work for the defense of fundamental human rights or in any way for public interest. Hence, their work and their basic rights must be protected to ensure the safe, transparent, democratic, and secure development of the internet and digital technologies across the world. They should be allowed to do their work without fear of judicial harassment or any form of harm coming from the state.
Arab Digital Expression Foundation – ADEF
Association of Progressive Communications
Casa da Cultura Digital Porto Alegre
Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J”
Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ)
Comité Permanente por los Derechos Humanos (CDH)
El Centro Latinoamericano de Investigaciones Sobre Internet (CLISI)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Fórum Nacional pela Democratização da Comunicação (FNDC)
Freedom of Press Foundation
Fundación Acceso (Centroamérica)
Fundación Internet Bolivia
Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH)
Fundación Vía Libre
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights Watch
Instituto de Pesquisa em Direito e Tecnologia do Recife (IP.rec)
Instituto Nupef – Núcleo de Pesquisas, Estudos e Formação
Internet Freedom Foundation
Intervozes – Coletivo Brasil de Comunicação Social
Open Knowledge Brasil
Organização Compas – Associação Internacional de Comunicação Compartilhada
People Who Give a Damn (PWGD)
Rede de Direitos Humanos e Cultura (DHnet)
Reporters without Borders
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
1 Amnesty International, Ecuador: Government interfered in criminal case against Ola Bini, 26 August 2019, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/08/ecuador-gobierno-interfiere-en-proceso-penal-contra-ola-bini/
3Universal City Studios v. Corley, 429 F.3d 445 (2000) Junger v. Daley, 481 F.3d 484 (2000) Bernstein v. United States Department of Justice, 922 F. Supp. 1426 (1999)