The state of freedom of expression in Eastern and Central Europe and Eurasia is the main topic of the first panel discussion at the second Regional Internet Freedom Summit, organized by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI).

The panel discussion was attended by the OSCE Ambassador in Skopje – Nina Suomalainen, Robert Popovski – Minister without Portfolio in the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, responsible for communications, accountability and transparency, Ellery Biddle- Advocacy Director for the Global Voices Network and Olga Kyryliuk from the Ukrainian organization Digital Defenders Partners, and the discussion was moderated by the Director of the Internet and Society Foundation “Metamorphosis”, Bardhyl Jashari.

Suomlainen, quoting the OSCE’s previous media freedom representative – Dunja Mijatović, reminded that everything that is valid offline, is also valid online, even though the digital world is a relatively new one, it brings new challenges. Among other things, she said that the Internet and freedom of expression, unfortunately, are also a platform for negative phenomena such as hate speech and terrorism, but at the same time, she stressed that it is precisely this freedom that is also a tool for fighting terrorism through offering opportunities for social cohesion.

The proposals for online media registration provided by the Minister in charge of accountability and transparency, Robert Popovski, were strongly criticized by the Romanian representative, Bogdan Manolea, from APTI and the Kyrgyz Media Development Center, who reminded that Macedonia is a member of the Council of Europe and that it should respect its declarations and standards.

Minister Popovski responded and said that this is just a proposal for debate and that the Government will never go against what the majority of journalist’s jurisdictions do not agree with.

Ellery Biddle from the Global Voices Advocacy spoke about Facebook and its rules, that is, about its right and obligation to take care of freedom of expression, as well as the (in) effectiveness of its moderation systems, especially for the languages ​​of the region.

Olga Kyryliuk, however, from the Ukrainian organization Digital Defenders Partners, among other things, mentioned the practice of filtering and blocking online content by some countries and thus violating international law.

The Summit, held from 22 to 24 March in Struga, featuring over 120 internet freedom experts and human rights activists from Europe and Eurasia and representatives of international organizations, continued with plenary sessions and workshops divided into three main topics: freedom of expression, privacy and cyber security.