In 1948, the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must have believed that information and communication technology would develop to an almost unimaginable degree that they saw the need to adopt a future-oriented clause in Article 19. The clause “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” points to the current digital information and communication technology’s still to-be-imagined impact on the whole wide world. Current experiences show that this medium is definitely able to assist people “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas ... regardless of [physical and digital] frontiers.”
But the very foresightedness of Article 19 is now the worry of some governments. Online information and ideas are now seen as threat to national security, instead of fulfillment of the right declared in Article 19. There are governmental attempts at stifling access to online information, or to express ideas online. These attempts are a throwback to the period of human rights repression during the Cold War era. But whether such attempts would succeed is highly doubtful considering the varied uses of online information and the strong support for online media from the people.
National security has to be properly defined in order to avoid human rights repression. In the meantime, the development of digital technology is unstoppable due to people’s unquenchable thirst for information available online. What is online is now a need, as much as a right.