Senior Department Officials
En Route Vilnius
December 5, 2011
MODERATOR: All right, travelers, we are en route from Bonn to Vilnius for the OSCE Ministerial and other events. To give us a sense of how tomorrow lays out, we have [Senior State Department Official One], hereafter Senior State Department Official Number One, and [Senior State Department Official Two], hereafter Senior State Department Official Number One – Number Two.
[Senior State Department Official One], why don’t you take us through the day?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. We did some of this yesterday, so I’ll just be brief and walk you through the day, and then --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. So we did some of this yesterday, so let me just briefly walk through the schedule, and then you can ask some questions if you have them.
So the Secretary’s going to participate in the OSCE Ministerial. She’ll begin with a meeting with the hosts of Lithuania, President Grybauskaite and Foreign Minister Azubalis of Lithuania. Following that, she will make remarks to the plenary session, which again is focused on the questions of democracy and human rights in the OSCE area. And she will draw particular attention to questions of media freedom, protection of journalists, and particularly protection of journalists in a digital age. And the United States is supporting a declaration – I can talk a bit more about this – a declaration of fundamental freedoms in the digital age, and we’re urging other OSCE participating states to support that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We are hoping it will be. It has support from a number of participating states, and we’d like to see it adopted by all of them. The Helsinki Final Act and OSCE declarations over the years have supported fundamental freedoms, but we want to underscore, especially in an age where you see bloggers thrown in prison and so on, that these --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. It’s a document supported already by more than – we’re getting up to 30 (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s not a U.S. document. It’s a document that the U.S. supports along with another – a number of other participating states.
MODERATOR: Why don’t we let him get through his brief.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll finish and then we can come back to questions. She’ll also flag issues of intolerance in Europe, empowerment of women, and other questions of human rights.
On the democracy front, some regional issues will no doubt come up, and the Secretary will address them. First and foremost, the situation in Belarus, in neighboring Belarus, where you still have two presidential candidates from last December’s election who are still in prison, and we consider them political prisoners.
Just in the last two weeks, a human rights activist was sentenced to four and half years in prison, and there are a number of other egregious violations of human rights in Belarus, and the Secretary will draw attention to that. Obviously, the – Sunday’s election in Russia which the Secretary already addressed today, the question in Ukraine of the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Tymoshenko and the perception of political prosecutions, and also the (inaudible) democracy issues in other OSCE areas such as Central Asia and the Caucasus.
And the OSCE also, beyond the democracy and human rights issues, deals with regional conflicts, and it will be an opportunity to address some of the regional conflicts in Europe such as Moldova-Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh.
After that – after the plenary, in particular to draw attention to some of these issues that I just mentioned, the Secretary will meet with a number of activists from Belarus, following which, she’ll meet with a wider range of NGO representatives from the OSCE area.
That’s basically the morning. Maybe [Senior State Department Official Two] wants to elaborate on (inaudible).
MODERATOR: I just wanted to say a word about the NGO meeting. We will have the list of the Belarusian activists for you later today.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay. She’s meeting, I guess, about a dozen activists from Belarus and then meeting a much larger group from, I think, about 40 countries who have come to Vilnius for the OSCE meeting, mostly European but also some from North Africa.
MODERATOR: Okay. (Inaudible.) Is that the whole day?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s it.
MODERATOR: What about the speech? Are you going to do the (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Oh. Well, I mean, I think yesterday I already walked through the different events. I wasn’t going to do (inaudible) focus on Vilnius here. We can – I could remind people of the key events in Geneva, but I thought you might do something on the way there.
MODERATOR: Okay. Questions on Vilnius?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to get this digital document approved or enacted by the OSCE, does it need to be unanimously approved? Is that how the OSCE works, by consensus? And who’s blocking it, if anyone?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The answer to the first question is yes; any declaration or decision by the OSCE has to be approved by all 56 participating states, frankly, which makes such decisions and declarations difficult. And what we want to underscore now is, even if it is not adopted by the 56, we’re making clear our support, the others who support it are making clear their support. It will be out there for all to see. And already today, a group of NGOs has vigorously embraced the principles in it.
So it remains to be seen who will be for and who against. We’re talking to all of the participating states now. But when all is said and done, if it’s not supported by all 56, you’ll know who wasn’t for it.
QUESTION: So you can’t tell us which countries are not supporting it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There’s been discussions going on for the past several weeks, and even as we speak in Vilnius, and countries are still --
QUESTION: Again, (inaudible) you tell us which countries (inaudible) the greatest concern for the journalists (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I would say all of the countries of Central Asia, Belarus, Russia, Turkey, a number of journalists in Turkey. Those would be the – on my list.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a copy of the draft (inaudible) make that available before the vote? That would be great. And also, just to clarify my question earlier, the U.S. wrote this and is building support for it, or it’s a collective of several nations?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s a collective effort. It’s not – it’s –among the countries that have been really strong on this are the Dutch, the Swedes, and the United States and Canada.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: As all these things (inaudible), I don’t know who first picked up the pen or the laptop, but it’s been worked iteratively a number of – among a number of strongly supporting states, including us.
QUESTION: Do you expect a vote tomorrow?
MODERATOR: No, I think he’s not talking about a vote. He’s talking about how many countries will join. What did you say? You have about 30 now. And the question is will --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Vote is the wrong word.
QUESTION: Is it the day to have that document approved or not? Or --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We hope to have it approved. That is our desire, to get all 56 to approve it as a decision from the organization.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) question (inaudible) be briefed by the OSCE, but how much do you expect this to be a big part of the plenary? And I mean, what is the – what are the next steps in terms of having the OSCE take (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, as the Secretary referred to, there was an OSCE monitoring mission, and we note the importance of that. It was a good thing that the Russians accepted OSCE monitors in the country. But we’ve also seen their report, and it had a number of issues that we’re concerned about that she addressed quite comprehensively in her statement and I don’t need to elaborate on.
I do think it will be an issue in Vilnius. Again, this is an organization focused on the importance of democracy in the OSCE area, and there are a lot of neighbors of Russia who are following this with great interest, as were we, and who will no doubt address it. But I don’t – I wouldn’t expect the organization, as such, to address it beyond what the observers have said.
QUESTION: Do you think, [Senior State Department Official Two], that this is going to be, like, the big issue tomorrow? Or do you still think, like, the promotion of internet – is this going to overshadow, I guess, (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It certainly is going to be on people’s mind. I don’t know, formally, that there’s going to be a discussion. But the ODIHR OSCE report came out today, and so basically people are going to be reading it and reacting to it in their conversation.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Russian elections (inaudible)?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Lavrov (inaudible)?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: He will be there. Yeah.
MODERATOR: I think we don’t know yet. We’re trying to figure out time-wise.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Vilnius, time is limited, as you know. There will be opportunities in Brussels for other bilats (inaudible).
QUESTION: Can I ask about this digital (inaudible) and the genesis of it? Was there any one event or was the Arab Spring a factor in deciding to do this? When did you start working on it, and why?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think this has been evolving over the last couple years. The Secretary has given two major speeches on this in 2010 and ’11. And we’ve worked with, as I say, the Swedes, the Dutch, and others, who are increasingly viewing these internet issues. And the effect of a crackdown on bloggers and journalists using electronic media is an important part of the human rights discussion. So it’s – this is an effort to try to get ahead of that and say this is something now that has to be considered a human rights norm.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think, and keep in mind, the Secretary’s going on Thursday evening to give a speech on internet freedom in The Hague, just reinforcing the (inaudible), something she’s been --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) she does speak out a lot about internet freedom, and I know it’s something that’s really important to her, but can you point to one (inaudible) example where this has been like a priority in our relations with these countries? I mean, what are the consequences for these countries that don’t adhere to internet freedom? Yes, you kind of rap them on the knuckles from the briefing podium, but other than that, I mean, these are lofty ideals, but I don’t see it translating (inaudible).
QUESTION: You guys don’t do anything about American companies that facilitate a lot of this monitoring and cracking down.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, on the first question, we raise cases of bloggers everywhere we go. We raised them in Burma last week. There are two prominent cases of bloggers in Azerbaijan --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The Secretary personally raised (inaudible).
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And they were released. So this comes up everywhere we go. And I think it’s increasingly one of the frontier issues of the human rights debate. People are using – it’s one of the frontier issues.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, because people are using the internet – it’s not just the Middle East. We’re seeing it in every part of the world.
On the companies – part of what we’re doing in the Netherlands is working with the Dutch in a meeting on Friday, and where one element is the role of corporations in terms of protecting internet freedom.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) specifically American companies, companies like Cisco, that have actually helped China or helped Syria?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: (Off-mike.)
MODERATOR: You’ve got to scream, [Senior State Department Official Two]. They can’t hear you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I’m sorry.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you’re going to speak about it very broadly and generally. Are you going to talk about specific measures that you could take to --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, one thing I know we’ll talk about is an affirmative initiative called the Global Network Initiative, which three American companies have joined with NGOs to be part of, which looks at internet freedom and privacy. So Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo are all part of that, and other companies, I think, are exploring whether they should join. But that’s a sort of affirmative effort to stake out principles and apply them.
MODERATOR: Karen, do you have something?
QUESTION: I wanted to ask where the Russia/China proposal to the UN fits into all of this. Is that still viable, as far as your know? And how much are they pushing it?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: At the General Assembly this year, Russia, China, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan put forward a statement saying that there ought to be consideration of a set of principles on internet security. And this is the first time I’m aware of China and Russia working together. But it is not yet a formal resolution or proposal; it was really a trial (inaudible). We’re obviously watching that closely.
MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody.