UN Global Digital Pact (GDC): RSF calls on governments to strengthen their commitment to guarantee the right to information

As negotiations on the revised draft of the Global Digital Agenda are currently taking place, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on governments not to miss an opportunity to recognise everyone's right to access free, independent, pluralistic and trustworthy information.

Despite some notable progress as compared to the Zero draft, the current revised draft of the GDC (which was published on 15th May) does not guarantee an effective right to information. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has several times insisted that this issue was a major objective of his mandate but so far the negotiations have not succeeded to meet his commitment.

For instance, while it aims to "define common principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all", the GDC makes no mention of the fundamental contribution of journalism to the full exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Moreover, the draft GDC currently requires very little commitment on the biggest digital platforms while ensuring ‘digital trust and security’ is claimed to be one of its main objectives.

UN Member States’ representatives will meet on 20 and 21 June to resume their negotiations. RSF calls on them to make sure that the GDC enhances the level of commitment from digital platforms, for example by requiring them to ensure due prominence of trustworthy sources of information in their user environment. Such providers of reliable information can be identified based on their adherence to journalism self-regulatory standards such as the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI). Providing for such an obligation would contribute to profoundly changing the online information environment which has until now favoured the proliferation of disinformation to the detriment of journalistic content.

"In today’s information chaos, freedom of expression is being used by the predators of press freedom against human rights and democracy. The implementation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be adapted to this new global and digital information environment. The Global Digital Pact, together with the Pact for the Future, provides an opportunity for the international community to acknowledge everyone's right to reliable information. It is the best way to guarantee a "digital future" that respects human rights and is regulated according to democratic principles. The promotion and defence of journalism must be at the heart of this fundamental text currently under discussion between governments.

Antoine Bernard
Director of Advocacy and Assistance of RSF

The Pact for the Future - the adoption of which is on the agenda of the Summit for the Future organised by the United Nations (UN) in September - aims to be the roadmap for States to accelerate their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Called for by the UN Secretary-General in his report Our Common Agenda, the Global Digital Pact is part of this broader package.

Our recommendations to support the right to information

In order to raise the level of ambition of the GDC, RSF and the Forum on Information and Democracy joined forces on 11 June to formulate several concrete amendments aimed at ensuring a minimum of guarantees for the right to information in the run up to the next phase of reading of the text.

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