Digital Freedom: Principles and Concepts

In February, the Egyptian Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression issued its first statement on digital freedom, a simplified research paper to propose definitions for digital rights and related principles which the paper summarised as: universal access, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to privacy, and the right to creativity, development and innovation.


The paper took the principle of universal access to include universal access to both technology and information, taking into consideration other relevant factors such as the cost and quality of available communication services, in addition to their suitability for all people and even the licenses required to operate and use communication networks. The paper summarised the principle of universal access as:

“حق جميع الأفراد في الاستمتاع بالاتصالات وتقنية المعلومات، عن طريق التقليل من الحواجز، المسافة، والتكلفة وكذلك قابلية تلك ألأنظمة للاستعمال من قبل الجميع، وهناك أكثر من صورة للإتاحة، حيث يمكن -على سبيل المثال- تناول حق المعاقين في إتاحة استخدام وسائل الاتصالات والإنترنت وتوفير الأجهزة اللازمة لذلك، أو حق الأطفال في الريف والمناطق الفقيرة في التعليم الخاص بتقنية المعلومات.”

The right of every person to use communication and information technology by means of reducing barriers and costs in addition to promoting their use by all. Universal access includes a range of things such as, for example, the right of the disabled to use communication technology and the Internet and to be provided with the necessary equipment and the right of children living in rural or disadvantaged areas to be educated about information technology.

The paper also discussed the issue of digital privacy and the threats to privacy that users can face from governments, service providers and malicious software. The paper defined privacy in digital spaces as:

“حق الأفراد في التراسل دون مراقبة والحق في خصوصية بياناتهم الموجودة على الإنترنت ومنع فرض مراقبة من قبل حكومة دولة ما على مجموعات أو أفراد، أو غير ذلك من التصرفات التي تصدر عن حكومات أو شركات تجارية يمكنها أن تشكل انتهاكا لخصوصية الأفراد.”

The right of individuals to send messages and emails without being monitored, the right to privacy with regard to data stored on the internet and the prohibition of government monitoring of either individuals or groups as well as the prohibition of other behaviour by governments or private companies that could represent a breach of individuals’ privacy.

The paper also included a principle related to freedom of expression and considered access to the internet and digital media as tools that provide a platform for the expression of opinions and thoughts to all, be they individuals, groups, or journalistic or media institutions. The paper described freedom of expression in digital spaces as :

“حق الأفراد والتجمعات في التعبير عن آرائهم بالطريقة والكيفية التي يريدونها عبر استخدام أي من أجهزة الاتصال بالإنترنت المتاحة، يجب أن ينظر إلى الإنترنت في إطار السياق المتكامل لحرية التعبير وعلى أنها ضمن سياق حرية الإنسان بشكل عام”

The right of individuals and organisations to express their opinions in the manner of their choosing using any type of device connected to the Internet. The Internet should be seen within a comprehensive framework for freedom of expression and within the context of individual freedom generally.

The final principle discussed by the paper was that of freedom of use, development and innovation which referred to freeware and its philosophy and ability to support digital freedom and technological growth in addition to the principles of open source, free content and open source hardware. The paper referred in this section to article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and highlighted the contradictory behaviour of certain governments and companies. Also discussed in this section was Creative Commons licensing with regard to digital content, programs, user guides and hardware.

Click here to download the report on digital freedom [ar].
This post was translated by Neil Sadler and AFTE.


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