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UN Human Rights Body Condemns Nations Blocking Internet Access

FILE - Computer users sit near a monitor display with a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the internet at an internet cafe in Beijing.

The U.N. Human Rights Council has condemned for the first time nations that block or restrict their citizens' internet access.

The council passed a resolution Friday denouncing "measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online," saying they violate international human rights law.

The resolution also called for governments to improve internet access to citizens whose gender or disability might make it more difficult to gain access.

The resolution also said the rights people have offline must be protected online — in particular, freedom of expression. It also called on nations to protect freedom of association, privacy and other human rights through national democratic, transparent institutions based on the rule of law.

A Freedom on the Net 2015 report, issued last year by rights group Freedom House, said states in the Middle East have jailed an increasing number of internet users for their online writings, and as of October last year, internet freedom had declined for the fifth year in a row.

The report said online surveillance was on the rise and even democratic nations such as France and Australia have authorized new surveillance in response to terrorism or the threat of it.