Internet freedom not to be curbed: UN telecoms head

Internet freedom will not be curbed or controlled, the head of the UN telecommunications body, Hamadoun Toure, said as a meeting to review the 24-year-old telecom regulations kicked off on Monday.

Such claims are "completely (unfounded)," Toure, secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union, told AFP.

"I find it a very cheap way of attacking" the conference, he said, as the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) set off in Dubai to review regulations reached in 1988.

Earlier, Toure told participants at the conference that the Internet freedom of expression will not be touched during the discussions at the meeting.

"Nothing can stop the freedom of expression in the world today, and nothing in this conference will be about it," he said.

"I have not mentioned anything about controlling the Internet."

Google has been vocal in warning of serious repercussions on the Internet if proposals made by member states are approved at the WCIT-12 meeting, including permitting censorship over legitimate content.

"Some proposals could permit governments to censor legitimate speech -- or even cut off Internet access," said Bill Echikson, Google's head of Free Expression in Europe, Middle East and Africa in a statement on Friday.

The Internet giant is also arguing that the ITU, which is the UN agency for information communication technologies, is not the right body to address Internet issues.

"Although the ITU has helped the world manage radio spectrum and telephone networks, it is the wrong place to make decisions about the future of the Internet," Echikson said.

"Only governments have a vote at the ITU," he pointed out.

But Toure, whose Geneva-based organisation has 193 member states and over 700 private-sector entities and academic institutions, said that "consensus" is the way to make decisions at the agency.

He also dismissed claims that the meetings in Dubai were secretive, telling reporters that the sessions are open.

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