UN resolution needed to help protect freedom of expression

Statement at the 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression

Madame President, Special Rapporteur;

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his timely report.

The CIVICUS Monitor watchlist highlights countries where there is a serious and rapid decline in respect for civic space, including where undue restrictions on freedom of expression – whether pre-existing, or introduced in response to the pandemic – consolidate authoritarian power and further human rights violations.

Currently, this includes the Philippines, where a provision in the emergency law introduced in response to the pandemic penalises the spreading of "false information," which could curtail freedom of speech and silence the media. Journalists and social media users have already been targeted. We also stand with prominent journalist Maria Ressa, who was convicted for ‘cyberlibel’ last month in a politically motivated case.

It also includes Hungary, where an act was passed in March criminalising spreading false information in connection with the pandemic. This could lead to further censorship of independent media in Hungary and the erosion of media freedom. Access to information for journalists has already diminished.

In Niger, authorities have used the 2019 Cybercrime Law against critics, including over social media posts and even private WhatsApp messages. Journalist and blogger Samira Sabou was arrested in June over a Facebook post. The National Assembly approved a law allowing for the interception of communication in May 2020.

In Azerbaijan, at least six activists and a pro-opposition journalist have been sentenced to prison after criticism of the government.

Finally, in the USA, journalists covering Black Lives Matter protests have been physically attacked, detained and had equipment seized by law enforcement. These are not isolated cases but reflect mounting hostility against the press in the country, with several cases of vilification, harassment and smear campaigns against journalists from both state and non-state actors.

We remind States that free flow of information will be paramount in our collective recovery from the pandemic. We call on the Council to support the resolution protecting freedom of expression currently before it, and to commit to ensuring protection for journalists, and for those who speak out.

Current council members:

Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor




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