Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

CMSI-II: “Cultural identity and freedom of expression are fundamental values”

Moritz Leuenberger, Swiss Federal Councilor, Tunis, November 17, 2005 – 2005/11/17

At the opening of WSIS-II in Tunis on November 17, Swiss Federal Councilor and Head of the Federal Department of Transport, Communications, and Energy, Moritz Leuenberger, reiterated the importance of freedom of information. “Cultural identity and freedom of expression are fundamental values. That’s why we must use the WSIS to forcefully highlight the importance of the right to freedom of information.” The councilor notably stated that “the quality of information and the information society is not determined by the technology or infrastructure used, but by free and open thinking. Where there are no telecommunication infrastructures, there can be no freedom, independence, or democracy.” However, he added that “They are also used to oppress, manipulate, destroy, and impose imperialistic and colonialist ambitions.”

Leuenberger also criticized “the uniform worldwide culture that is conveyed in English” and the “Anglo-Saxon domination of the Internet and the media.” He remarked that “creative works from many countries and cultures remain confined to niches.” “While information technology could greatly contribute to cultural plurality, it appears, on the contrary, to lead to uniformity—to globalization in the negative sense of the term, that is to the impoverishment of content and cultural diversity,” deplored the federal councilor. He also declared that “communication technologies, the Internet, radio, and television must serve to further the cultural identity of men and women to lead them to independence and freedom of choice, not to manipulate and control.”

Leuenberger added that the recent adoption by UNESCO of the Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions “is a step in the right direction” but that there remains much to be done. He emphasized that “cultural content is not mere merchandise.” In his view, communication technologies must “serve to further citizens’ freedom of choice, in a spirit of openness and freedom. This process can only be undertaken in a free and democratic society that gives its citizens free access to information (…). States in which a government department decides what information is to be made available and that crack down on freedom of expression are a long way from a true information society,” he concluded.

 

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