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Christian Fuchs <[log in to unmask]>
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Thu, 3 Apr 2014 16:54:01 +0100
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The information society, the Internet and the media are today largely 
controlled by large corporations such as Google and Facebook and a 
state-industrial complex, for which the control mechanisms unveiled by 
Edward Snowden are characteristic. We live in an unfree information 
society with limits to expression and an unfree Internet.

Sign the Freedom of Information and Expression Declaration that demands 
a free Internet, free media and a free information society!

The 2014 Vienna Declaration on Freedom of Information and Expression

More information and videos of talks from the Freedom of Information 


The 2014 Vienna Declaration on Freedom of Information and Expression

This petition can be signed online at

We, the speakers of the Vienna 2014 International Conference “Freedom of 
Information Under Pressure. Control – Crisis – Culture” (comprised of 
international academics, media practitioners, librarians, experts of 
open culture and public space, activists, critical citizens, lawyers and 
policy makers), sign the following Declaration on Freedom of Information 
and Expression:

Having met in Vienna of Austria on 28 February and 1 March 2014 and 
having discussed the challenges of freedom of information in the light 
of the recent surveillance revelations and the increase in censorship 
and prosecutions of media, journalists and whistle-blowers in Europe and 
beyond, we express our deep concern and appeal for public vigilance to 
defend freedom of information and expression as key democratic rights.

We consider Edward Snowden’s revelations as a wake up call. His story is 
not about one man leaking classified information; rather it is about 
privacy, civil liberties, power and democracy. But also about the future 
of the Internet itself, the nature of democratic oversight - and much more.

We condemn the existence of a surveillance-industrial complex, in which 
the American, British and other European states’ intelligence services 
conduct mass surveillance of the Internet, social media, mobile and 
landline telephones, in co-operation with communications corporations 
such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Skype, Yahoo!, Aol as well 
as private security firms.

We express our solidarity and support to whistle-blowers, journalists 
and organisations, including Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea 
Manning, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian and others, for 
their efforts towards fostering transparency and public accountability. 
We denounce their oppression and prosecution that we consider as a major 
threat to freedom of information.

We observe a great paradox of the media in the 21st century: although 
more people than ever have the means to express themselves freely, there 
are huge power asymmetries that favour corporate and state control of 
the media: journalists in Europe and many other regions face an alarming 
increase in violent attacks, intimidation, legal threats and other 
restrictions on their work. Among the important factors of this paradox 
are the growth of anti-terrorism laws and new nationalisms, the fusion 
of political, economic and media power, and the weakening of the 
authority of critical and high-quality media, including independent 
media, investigative journalism and public service media. Furthermore, 
the Internet and social media are largely controlled by corporations and 
there is not enough material support for alternative Internet and media 
projects. This mix seems to represent an existential challenge to 
critical media, independent journalism and to the established framework 
of international laws and safeguards for press freedom and the freedoms 
of expression, speech, information and opinion.

We point out that the current crisis and austerity policies have a 
serious negative effect on important democratic freedoms. The official 
political reactions to the crisis have given grounds for the further 
centralisation of corporate, state and media power that undermine the 
freedom of information and further the prosecutions of citizens, 
activists, journalists and the media. We particularly condemn attempts 
to limit or close down critical, independent and public service media. 
The Greek government’s closure of the public service broadcaster ERT is 
in this respect a particularly alarming development.

We stress that under the conditions of corporatisation and 
bureaucratisation, the potentials created by access to information and 
public knowledge are hampered. In many countries and at a transnational 
level we lack adequate laws for the transparency of corporate and state 
power and citizens’ access to information about it in order to hold 
those in power accountable.

A particularly alarming development of the limitation of freedom of 
information can be found in the world of libraries: large corporate 
publishers tend to license access to academic and literary works only in 
expensive bundles and make the access to easy-to-use e-books difficult 
and expensive. The result is a limit of public access to cultural works 
so that people have more and more to rely on purchasing books and 
articles, which is a matter of purchasing power that disadvantages many 
citizens. The corporate power of publishing houses thereby limits the 
public’s right to inform itself.

We consider that the right of access to information can promote 
citizens’ civic and political participation by raising their levels of 
trust in political and policy-making institutions, while it can fight 
phenomena such as lobbying and corruption. Open access to public and 
digitised knowledge and scholarly research is also crucial for the 
continuous education of the broader public and professionals, the 
promotion of cultural production and diversity and the preservation of 
the historic and collective memory. New social media, libraries and 
archives can and should play an important role in this field.

We are convinced that freedom of information is a value worth struggling 
for and that the current framework and developments strongly threaten 
freedom, democracy and basic civil liberties.

A free culture, a free economy of information and a free polity of 
information are possible!

First signees:
Antonis Broumas (Attorney at law, Digital Liberation Network, Greece)
Arne Hintz (Lecturer, University of Cardiff, UK)
Augustine Zenakos (Journalist, UNFOLLOW magazine, Greece)
Barbara Trionfi (Press Freedom Manager, International Press Institute)
Christian Fuchs (Professor of Social Media, University of Westminster, UK)
Dimitris Tsapogas (Researcher, University of Vienna, Austria)
Gerfried Sperl (Journalist, PHOENIX, Austria)
Gill Phillips (Director of Editorial Legal Service, The Guardian, United 
Joachim Losehand (Scholar, VIBE!at, Austria)
Kostas Arvanitis (Journalist and Director, Sto Kokkino Radio, Greece)
Kostas Efimeros (Publisher, The Press Project, Greece)
Lisa Schilhan (VÖB, University of Graz, Austria)
Mariniki Alevizopoulou (Journalist, UNFOLLOW magazine, Greece)
Minas Samatas (Professor, University of Crete, Greece)
Miyase Christensen (Professor, Stockholm University, Royal Institute of 
Technology, Sweden, London School of Economics, UK)
Nikolaus Hamann (Vienna Public Libraries, KRIBIBI, Austria)
Paloma Fernández de la Hoz (Catholic Social Academy, Austria)