One of the features of the regular ICANN meeting is the public forum which is now held on Thursday afternoon, the last day of the meeting. This is an occasion where the voice of the people can be heard, and the only restriction on the topic is that the speakers must limit their address to 2 minutes and comply with the ICANN rules about Expected Standards of Behaviour. These are “Treat all members of the ICANN community equally, irrespective of nationality, gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age, or sexual orientation; members of the ICANN community should treat each other with civility both face to face and online.”
So provided the speaker respects those standards, then they are free to speak. This means that the speaker can discuss anything of concern to them. This is perhaps a poignant issue, when the meeting is held in a country where the freedom to speak is not given the same importance as some other participant countries in the ICANN community.
There is often an issue of not wishing to offend a host. But underlying this is sometimes the need to respect freedom of speech. During the ICANN meeting there was an incident where someone tried to speak inappropriately at an earlier meeting, where they were off topic. This resulted in two complaints to my office, over the next day. One of those was from the speaker and the other from a participant in the meeting, who was concerned about a perception that the speaker had been treated badly by not being able to speak. I explained carefully both to the speaker, and to the other complainant, that the initial forum at which he tried to speak was the wrong place, because he was off topic. I explained that we did have the public forum where he could express his views freely. I then made a specific arrangement so that he would be able to speak at the forum and that he also understood the rules about expected standards of behaviour. He completely understood this issue and did explain to me why he wanted to talk.
So in due course on Thursday, he arranged for someone to talk for the 2 minutes on this topic and was pleased to have been given the opportunity.
Sometimes things like freedom of speech are taken for granted, when it is an accepted part of our community. Not all places offer the same freedom, and within the world of ICANN, we can assist in ensuring that there is free and open discussion. I was pleased to be able to assist this person. Otherwise of course this would have been unfair.