As negotiations continue, the proposed UN Cybercrime Convention must not become a tool to undermine press freedom

The two-week session of negotiations on the draft UN Cybercrime Convention concluded on Friday, February 9, with member states unable to reach a consensus on critical aspects. Member states agreed to extend the negotiation process, with an additional session likely to be held in July 2024.

Although the stated purpose of the treaty is to improve international cooperation to prevent and combat cybercrime, civil society organizations have repeatedly raised concerns that the treaty risks becoming a tool to undermine freedom of expression, privacy, and other human rights standards.

On January 29, 2024, prior to the opening of the latest negotiation session, the Committee to Protect Journalists joined over 100 civil society organizations in issuing a joint statement on the proposed treaty. “The final outcome of the treaty negotiation process should only be deemed acceptable if it effectively incorporates strong and meaningful safeguards to protect human rights, ensures legal clarity for fairness and due process, and fosters international cooperation under the rule of law,” the letter said.

A revised text was produced during the negotiation, but it failed to sufficiently address these concerns. This prompted CPJ to join civil society, industry, and technical experts in submitting an open letter on February 8, 2024, to highlight the ongoing critical flaws.

The letter noted that journalists and other vulnerable groups “would face the risk of being subjected to investigations leveraging the procedural measures of this proposed treaty without notice, potentially resulting in extradition and prosecution for exercising fundamental human rights while using digital technology.”

CPJ will continue to advocate to ensure the treaty, if approved, does not leave journalists vulnerable to prosecution, surveillance, or other abuses.