Human Rights in China (HRIC) has been denied accreditation to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) scheduled for Geneva in December.
The failure to include HRIC in the upcoming WSIS raises serious concerns about the transparency and legitimacy of this multilateral process and any meeting that purports to encourage the broadest possible participation. HRIC has called on the Executive Secretariat of WSIS to explain the reasons for this decision.
HRIC, an international human rights NGO, has a 15-year record for promoting freedom of expression and the peaceful expansion of civil society. HRIC is an active contributor to international dialogues and processes, including recent accreditation as an NGO observer at the World Trade Organization Fifth Ministerial meeting held in Cancun last week.
In August the Executive Secretariat of WSIS confirmed that HRIC’s application was timely and complete, and that it had been sent for review to the government missions. Following review by the missions, HRIC was not included on the list recommended for accreditation.
HRIC feels rejection of its application to attend WSIS raises the following serious concerns about the multilateral process:
Inclusion of civil society entities: The official Arrangements for participation require that “the applicant is competent and its activities relevant to the work of the Summit.” HRIC’s mission focuses on promoting free expression and right to information. Our programs are directly connected to WSIS’s work, in particular our expanded Web initiative promoting human rights, freedom of expression and the uncensored flow of information into and out of China.
WSIS has the stated goal of examining, among other issues, ways to “protect the free flow of information and communication,” “promote open and informative media, freedom of opinion and expression, and diversity of content and culture,” and “stress the role of press freedom in the context of democracy and good governance.” The review process by missions should not be turned into a mechanism for censorship and exclusion of independent NGO voices.
Transparency: The list of NGOs and civil society entities recommended for accreditation to WSIS is dated August 22, 2003, but to date HRIC has received no direct communications from the Executive Secretariat regarding the decision, the basis for the decision or any possible avenue for appeal. HRIC and other civil society groups excluded should be informed about which specific missions raised objections, what those objections were, or whether there were other reasons for the exclusion of a particular group.