The theme for this year's commemoration of human rights day- social media and human rights- brings into sharp focus the important role which technology can play in advancing the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Over the last decade, social media have altered the communications landscape and, as we have witnessed in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, have been used as a coordinating tool in the quest by citizens for freedom, inclusive government and respect for fundamental human rights.
Through the use of the Internet, e-mail, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, ordinary citizens, with the click of a button, have become more empowered and more aware of their rights and fundamental freedoms. Social media have increased the shared awareness of the citizenry to issues of accountability and good governance.
Here in Jamaica, the use of social media has become commonplace. It has enabled Jamaicans from all walks of life to engage in an unimpeded manner in dialogue on social, economic and political issues. This freedom to engage in personal and public discourse without hindrance or political interference is central to the democratic ideals of the nation. It also underscores the freedom of expression and the freedom of association and assembly, which are enshrined in the Jamaican Constitution and further entrenched in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Indeed, Jamaica has the distinction as being consistently ranked by the international community among the countries enjoying some of the highest levels of freedom of the press.
Today serves to remind us that the protection of fundamental rights is not the sole preserve of the Government, as we all have a shared responsibility to respect the rights of others. We must work together in support of this objective which, in the end, is what guarantees a people’s full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, in keeping with our democratic tradition and ideals.