Jan 2013 14 – 15

Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression

Sarina Hotel, Dhaka, Bangladesh

The Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression seeks to address the question of how freedom of expression on the Internet is best protected by taking as its starting point two of the biggest challenges for freedom of expression online in South Asia today: hate speech online on the one hand, and cyber security and surveillance on the other.

Background #

Web 2.0 and the social media have changed the way we communicate, organise, outrage’, debate and effect change. Marginalised groups are making themselves heard through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and various citizen journalism initiatives. It is increasingly difficult for policymakers, governments and businesses to ignore the social media buzz. While there is widespread, almost unanimous, agreement among all stakeholders that free speech needs to be protected, various issues like hate speech, cyber-terrorism, cyber-stalking, even rumor-mongering pose potential threats to such freedom as the law struggles to catch up with these. Similar issues have been flagged by netizens in other developing and developed nations. It is against the backdrop of these developments that a discussion on Internet and the Freedom of Expression becomes inevitable.

The Internet Democracy Project (India), in collaboration with VOICE (Bangladesh), Internet Society Nepal (Nepal), Point of View (India) and Global Partners and Associates (the UK) is, therefore, organising the Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression, to be held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 14 and 15 January, 2013.

The first South Asian Meeting on the Internet and Freedom of Expression took place in March 2011 in Delhi, and mapped the many challenges for free speech online in our region, as an input into the report on the Internet and freedom of expression of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Mr. Frank La Rue. The second South Asian Meeting, in Kathmandu in November 2011, assessed the extent to which policy and regulation in the South Asian countries complied with the recommendations Mr. La Rue made in his report.

This third meeting will now build on these earlier efforts by bringing together experts from civil society, business, the research community and other stakeholder groups to discuss two of the biggest shared challenges for freedom of expression online in South Asia today in detail: the rising visibility of hate speech on the one hand, and the impact of discourses regarding cybersecurity and surveillance on the other. Our starting point is that the challenges of hate speech and for cybersecurity in our region are real, and need to be addressed head-on. The meeting therefore seeks to investigate both the precise nature of these challenges and what Internet governance mechanisms we need to evolve to ensure that they can be addressed most effectively whilst upholding and strengthening the right to freedom of expression.

For further background, please download:

Concept Note Third South Asian Meeting on the Internet and FoE

Agenda #

Monday 14 January 2013 

09.0009.45: Welcome and introductions of participants

09.4510.15: Introduction to the meeting: the challenge that hate speech online and cyber security/​surveillance pose to freedom of expression on the Internet

Intro: Internet governance and human rights issues in general Why is this event focussed on hate speech and surveillance?

Speaker and discussion moderator: Dixie Hawtin

10.1510.45: Tea/​coffee break

10.4512.15: The challenge of hate speech on the Internet in South Asia

Strengthening the right to freedom of expression to curtail hate speech (Anja Kovacs)

Three country perspectives, from the Maldives (Mariyath Mohamed), Pakistan (Shahzad Ahmed), and Bangladesh (Salim Khan)

Moderator: Bishakha Datta

12.15 – 13:30: Lunch

13.3014.00: Keynote: Thinking about a rights-based approach to cyber security and surveillance as it relates to speech

Keynote speaker: KS Park

14.0015.30: Understanding cyber security and surveillance in South Asia today

Three country perspectives from Bangladesh (Mohammad Rahman), Nepal (Kailash Prasad Neupane) and India (Chinmayi Arun).

Moderator: Pranesh Prakash

15.30 – 16:00: Tea/​coffee break

16.0017.30: Keynote: Legal and ethical questions and challenges when addressing cyber security and surveillance: two case studies 

Keynote speaker: Rohan Samarajiva

15 January 2013 

09.0009.15: Introduction to day 2

09.1510.45: Cybersecurity, surveillance and hate speech online – key issues that need to be addressed in governance in order to protect Internet freedom of expression

This session will discuss particular issues that have relevance for both cyber security debates and hate speech issues in greater depth. Four topics that will be addressed are:

  • The question of anonimity (KS Park)

  • Cross-border cooperation and other jurisdictional issues in context of cloud computing and crossborder data flows and storage (Aditya Rao)

  • Domain Names and registration (Babu Ram Aryal)

  • Intermediaries as law enforcers (Suman Pradhan)

Moderator: Shahzad Ahmed

10.4511.00: Tea/​coffee break

11.0013.00 What kind of solutions could a rights-based approach throw up to the challenges raised so far in the meeting?

Open discussion in groups and plenary

13.0013.30: Summing up and thank yous

13.3015.00: Lunch

15:0016:00: Meeting participants move to venue for public meeting, tea/​coffee break and arrival of wider public

16.0018.30: PUBLIC DIALOGUE: Freedom of expression and the Internet in South Asia: A way forward to ensure people’s rights

(Please see the separate event announcement of the Public Dialogue for further details of this event)

Participants #

To ensure maximisation of outputs, meeting participation is by invitation only and restricted to about thirty five individuals whose past and current work, we believe, indicates a clear concern for the challenges that the Internet poses to freedom of expression as well as a particular expertise that is required to help us to go beyond these challenges. Delegates are invited from Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

The two day event will close with a panel discussion that is open to the public in the late afternoon of 15 January 2013.

The official hashtag for the entire two-day event is #SAFoE. We will be live tweeting from the official Twitter account of the Internet Democracy Project: @iNetDemocracy