21 October 2016, New York – European Union Intervention at the United Nations 71st General Assembly: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, David Kaye, on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Thank you Madam Chairperson,
We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and thank him for his continuing commitment and his work.
Without doubt, freedom of expression is an essential pre-requisite for a functioning, democratically accountable society and is an enabler of all human rights. When freedom of expression is restricted, and journalists are unlawfully threatened, imprisoned, or murdered, it is a clear sign that human rights across the board are not being respected, and that those responsible are not being held to account.
We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s work to highlight such cases, both in his report and in his work throughout the year.
The report rightly focuses on the need for national laws to be necessary and proportionate. It is important that any restriction of freedom of expression is specified by law; and upheld in accordance with the rule of law. The report highlights the dangers of the use of broad, ill-defined, definitions and of using false pretexts for reducing freedom of expression and stresses the necessity of judicial and public oversight of limitations on the freedom of expression.
We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s focus on the importance of freedom of expression online, and his concern that this is deteriorating at the national level despite strong commitments made at the international level. We strongly support the principle that the rights which exist offline must also be protected online.
At the 32nd session of Human Rights Council in June, the resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet was passed. This has been described as a “milestone” resolution and we endorse that view. In particular, the Council unequivocally condemned “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access or dissemination of information online”. The prevention of such measures is fundamental to protecting freedom of expression in the 21st century.
How does the Special Rapporteur think that the commitments made at the international level, including at HRC and UNGA, can be translated into action at the national level? What examples of best practice can be shared?
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