Human Trafficking and Freedom of Press: International Youth Summits Tackle Big Issues

The Justice Committee at the Youth G8 and G20 Summits is busy writing a section of a communiqué which will be presented to world leaders to express a unique youth perspective on real and pressing issues in the modern world. Discussion has moved from cyber crime and cyber surveillance, to discussing freedom of communication and freedom of the press, and then to human trafficking. 

The topic of freedom of the press and communication began with a discussion of rights and responsibilities. The debate centered around how much the state should be allowed to step in to prevent publication or remove dangerous materials from the Internet; such as material inciting acts of violence. The committee believes the state should only step in during exceptional circumstances and must protect freedom of speech. This philosophy was summed up by the mantra which was a paraphrase of the quote, 'I may not agree with what you say but I'll fight for your right to say it.' 

The definition of what these circumstances should include, and particularly whether they incite discrimination was a main point of contention. There was also an interesting strand of debate between delegates from Germany and the U.S. concerning hate speech. 

In Germany, Holocaust denial is illegal and there are strict controls on what can be published, compared with the U.S. which adheres to the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. Both points of view had validity and the issue was not fully resolved with the delegates deciding that respecting individual state laws in light of their culture and history was the best approach to the problem. 

When debate moved on to human trafficking the committee discussed sensitive issues such as whether it was acceptable to detain the children of illegal immigrants as they wait for deportation. The committee also raised the question of how to determine who was trafficked against their will for prostitution or other issues, and who was being smuggled to gain unlawful entry into a country of their own free will. The committee seemed to agree on overarching principles despite their different backgrounds. The main challenge seems to be finding policies that are implementable when faced with hugely complex global issues that require extensive international cooperation. The next discussion topic is arms, drugs, and terrorism. Don't forget to follow my updates for the rest of the conference which finishes on Friday.

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Bethany English

I'm a journalist in the UK working for a large regional newspaper called the Manchester Evening News. I'm also press secretary to the UK youth G8 and G20 summits in Washington. I have a background in politics and am passionate about international justice.

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