On the 28th of July, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations approved a new “General Comment” of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, giving clear guidance on the legitimate restrictions on freedom of expression that states can make.
The Global Network Initiative (GNI) welcomes reference to how developments in Information and Communications Technologies, specifically the Internet and mobile devices, have substantially transformed communication around the world and the responsibility of states to ensure access to these services.
This recent document follows other important steps from the UN and other intergovernmental organizations in recent months:
1. The endorsement by the UN Human Rights Council of the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights developed by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie. These Guiding Principles carry forward the “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework unanimously welcomed by the Human Rights Council in 2008.
2. The report released by Frank La Rue, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, which considers some of the key issues such as intermediary liability and the protection of privacy. This report attracted a cross regional statement of support by over 40 governments including representatives from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia
3. The joint declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.
4. A UNESCO released publication covering not only the state of free expression but also the interrelationship between free expression and economic and development issues and how reducing the digital divide could support freedom of expression.
As an initiative providing a framework for company decision making on these issues based on internationally recognized laws and standards for human rights, GNI looks forward to the continued work of the UN and other multilateral institutions.