For immediate release | August 16, 2011

ALA Council endorses United Nations report

NEW ORLEANS – The Council of the American Library Association (ALA) passed a resolution endorsing the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

The resolution was passed on June 28 at the ALA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans.

On May 16, the United Nations received the report, which asserts: “By vastly expanding the capacity of individuals to enjoy their right to freedom of opinion and expression, which is an ‘enabler’ of other human rights, the Internet boosts economic, social and political development, and contributes to the progress of humankind as a role.”

It emphasized that there should be as little restriction as possible to the flow of information via the Internet, except in few, exceptional and limited circumstances prescribed by international human rights law. It also stressed that the full guarantee of the right to freedom of expression must be the norm, and any limitation considered as an exception, and that this principle should never be reversed.

In particular, the Special Rapporteur expressed deep concern about the increasingly sophisticated blocking or filtering mechanisms used by States for censorship. “The lack of transparency surrounding these measures also makes it difficult to ascertain whether blocking or filtering is really necessary for the purported aims put forward by States.”

The Special Rapporteur called upon states currently blocking websites to provide lists of those that are being blocked and disclosing the necessity and justification for such action, as well as the reasons behind it.

The report is consistent with the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, which states that: “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment; Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas; and “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.”

It is also in line with ALA policy stating, “Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self-government. Freedom of expression encompasses the freedom of speech and the corollary right to receive information. Libraries and librarians protect and promote these rights regardless of the format or technology employed to create and disseminate information.”

In addition, ALA policy “affirms that the use of filtering software by libraries to block access to constitutionally protected speech violates the Library Bill of Rights.”

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 61,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.


Steve Zalusky