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[liberationtech] Sign the Freedom of Information and Expression-Declaration!
christian.fuchs at uti.at
Thu Apr 3 08:58:02 PDT 2014
The information society, the Internet and the media are today largely
controlled by large corporations such as Google and Facebook and a
state-industrial complex. The control mechanisms unveiled by Edward
Snowden, the closure of and attack against public service media,
repression against critcal journalists, online platforms and activists,
and a highly centralised Internet and media economy are characteristic
for this situation.
We live in an unfree information society with limits to expression and
an unfree Internet.
Sign the Freedom of Information and Expression Declaration that demands
a free Internet, free media and a free information society!
The 2014 Vienna Declaration on Freedom of Information and Expression
More information and videos of talks from the Freedom of Information
The 2014 Vienna Declaration on Freedom of Information and Expression
This petition can be signed online at
We, the speakers of the Vienna 2014 International Conference “Freedom of
Information Under Pressure. Control – Crisis – Culture” (comprised of
international academics, media practitioners, librarians, experts of
open culture and public space, activists, critical citizens, lawyers and
policy makers), sign the following Declaration on Freedom of Information
Having met in Vienna of Austria on 28 February and 1 March 2014 and
having discussed the challenges of freedom of information in the light
of the recent surveillance revelations and the increase in censorship
and prosecutions of media, journalists and whistle-blowers in Europe and
beyond, we express our deep concern and appeal for public vigilance to
defend freedom of information and expression as key democratic rights.
We consider Edward Snowden’s revelations as a wake up call. His story is
not about one man leaking classified information; rather it is about
privacy, civil liberties, power and democracy. But also about the future
of the Internet itself, the nature of democratic oversight - and much more.
We condemn the existence of a surveillance-industrial complex, in which
the American, British and other European states’ intelligence services
conduct mass surveillance of the Internet, social media, mobile and
landline telephones, in co-operation with communications corporations
such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Skype, Yahoo!, Aol as well
as private security firms.
We express our solidarity and support to whistle-blowers, journalists
and organisations, including Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea
Manning, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian and others, for
their efforts towards fostering transparency and public accountability.
We denounce their oppression and prosecution that we consider as a major
threat to freedom of information.
We observe a great paradox of the media in the 21st century: although
more people than ever have the means to express themselves freely, there
are huge power asymmetries that favour corporate and state control of
the media: journalists in Europe and many other regions face an alarming
increase in violent attacks, intimidation, legal threats and other
restrictions on their work. Among the important factors of this paradox
are the growth of anti-terrorism laws and new nationalisms, the fusion
of political, economic and media power, and the weakening of the
authority of critical and high-quality media, including independent
media, investigative journalism and public service media. Furthermore,
the Internet and social media are largely controlled by corporations and
there is not enough material support for alternative Internet and media
projects. This mix seems to represent an existential challenge to
critical media, independent journalism and to the established framework
of international laws and safeguards for press freedom and the freedoms
of expression, speech, information and opinion.
We point out that the current crisis and austerity policies have a
serious negative effect on important democratic freedoms. The official
political reactions to the crisis have given grounds for the further
centralisation of corporate, state and media power that undermine the
freedom of information and further the prosecutions of citizens,
activists, journalists and the media. We particularly condemn attempts
to limit or close down critical, independent and public service media.
The Greek government’s closure of the public service broadcaster ERT is
in this respect a particularly alarming development.
We stress that under the conditions of corporatisation and
bureaucratisation, the potentials created by access to information and
public knowledge are hampered. In many countries and at a transnational
level we lack adequate laws for the transparency of corporate and state
power and citizens’ access to information about it in order to hold
those in power accountable.
A particularly alarming development of the limitation of freedom of
information can be found in the world of libraries: large corporate
publishers tend to license access to academic and literary works only in
expensive bundles and make the access to easy-to-use e-books difficult
and expensive. The result is a limit of public access to cultural works
so that people have more and more to rely on purchasing books and
articles, which is a matter of purchasing power that disadvantages many
citizens. The corporate power of publishing houses thereby limits the
public’s right to inform itself.
We consider that the right of access to information can promote
citizens’ civic and political participation by raising their levels of
trust in political and policy-making institutions, while it can fight
phenomena such as lobbying and corruption. Open access to public and
digitised knowledge and scholarly research is also crucial for the
continuous education of the broader public and professionals, the
promotion of cultural production and diversity and the preservation of
the historic and collective memory. New social media, libraries and
archives can and should play an important role in this field.
We are convinced that freedom of information is a value worth struggling
for and that the current framework and developments strongly threaten
freedom, democracy and basic civil liberties.
A free culture, a free economy of information and a free polity of
information are possible!
Antonis Broumas (Attorney at law, Digital Liberation Network, Greece)
Arne Hintz (Lecturer, University of Cardiff, UK)
Augustine Zenakos (Journalist, UNFOLLOW magazine, Greece)
Barbara Trionfi (Press Freedom Manager, International Press Institute)
Christian Fuchs (Professor of Social Media, University of Westminster, UK)
Dimitris Tsapogas (Researcher, University of Vienna, Austria)
Gerfried Sperl (Journalist, PHOENIX, Austria)
Gill Phillips (Director of Editorial Legal Service, The Guardian, United
Joachim Losehand (Scholar, VIBE!at, Austria)
Kostas Arvanitis (Journalist and Director, Sto Kokkino Radio, Greece)
Kostas Efimeros (Publisher, The Press Project, Greece)
Lisa Schilhan (VÖB, University of Graz, Austria)
Mariniki Alevizopoulou (Journalist, UNFOLLOW magazine, Greece)
Minas Samatas (Professor, University of Crete, Greece)
Miyase Christensen (Professor, Stockholm University, Royal Institute of
Technology, Sweden, London School of Economics, UK)
Nikolaus Hamann (Vienna Public Libraries, KRIBIBI, Austria)
Paloma Fernández de la Hoz (Catholic Social Academy, Austria)
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