ABA ROLI's Second Regional Internet Freedom Summit in Macedonia

Robert Popovski, Minister in the Government of Macedonia, Ambassador Nina Suomalainen, Head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje, and Bardhyl Jashari, Director of Metamorphosis, lead the discussion about online access (top photo). 

A free and open internet is a key component for thriving democratic societies and an important counterweight to the rising tide of authoritarianism. Around the world, governments are restricting internet freedom under the guise of protecting users and dubious threats to national security. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has long recognized that protecting internet freedom advances fundamental human rights such as the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) works in 18 countries across Europe, Eurasia, and Asia to enhance legal protections for a free internet and strengthen civil societies to advocate for more internet freedom.

Recently, ABA ROLI hosted the second Regional Internet Freedom Summit in Struga, Macedonia, where more than 120 Internet freedom experts and activists from 11 countries in Europe and Eurasia gathered to discuss the latest developments in online freedom of expression, privacy, and cybersecurity. Although these countries are located in the same region and may have similar challenges, each country has its own unique setting and Internet status. The summit offered an opportunity for experts and activists to share their experiences and best practices to foster Internet freedom. In addition, during the Summit, the Internet Freedom Network was able to gather all of its members together to brainstorm ideas for increasing their cooperation and coordination efforts, and how they might undertake new bilateral activities.

ABA ROLI also hosted representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Global Voices Advox, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Tech Against Terrorism, and the Government of the Republic of Macedonia. Local partners had the opportunity to learn from each other on topics including encryption trends, challenges and opportunities brought on by the digital economy, and the regulatory and legislative challenges to online freedom of expression and the right to privacy, while also exploring new tools to ensure the digital safety on Internet activists.