EFF joins 45 digital and human rights organizations in calling on the UN Secretary-General and other decision-makers to reverse their recent decision to grant Saudi Arabia host status for the 2024 Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and to conduct a review of the process that led to it.
Civil society organizations attending the 2023 IGF in Kyoto, Japan this past week were shocked to learn that Saudi Arabia had been chosen to serve as the next host. The Gulf country has a long history of human rights violations, including the persecution of human and women’s rights defenders, journalists, and online activists.
In recent years, the Saudi government has spied on its own citizens on social media and through the use of spyware; imprisoned Wikipedia volunteers for their contributions to access to information on the platform; sentenced a PhD student and mother of two to 34 years in prison and a subsequent travel ban of the same length; and sentenced a teacher to death for his posts on social media.
In addition to these individual violations of human rights, Saudi Arabia boasts a draconian cybercrime law and a widespread censorship regime both online and off, posing threats to its own citizens as well as the safety of members of civil society who might consider attending an event there.
As the letter states:
“These cases mark an alarming, unprecedented assault on freedom of expression and raise serious questions about the extent to which civil society can participate freely and safely in conversations around these issues at the next iteration of IGF without the threat of government reprisal, harassment, or intimidation – both during the event itself and long after it has moved on to its next cycle.”