UN and international experts release key declaration on Freedom of Expression in Conflict Situations

RIGA (4 May 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye,  issued a joint declaration* on ‘Freedom of Expression and Responses to Conflict Situations’ together with special rapporteurs on free expression from the Organization of American States (OAS), the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

“This joint declaration reminds States on their longstanding commitments,” Mr. Kaye said at the World Press Freedom Day International Conference in Riga, Latvia. “Unfortunately, we are aware that the trend is not positive – many journalists, artists and activists are in detention, missing, buried, or deterred from exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The declaration addresses attacks perpetrated in different contexts, such as armed conflicts, terrorist attacks and widespread organised crime. It emphasizes that States should not respond to crisis situations by adopting additional restrictions on freedom of expression, except as strictly justified by the situation. It calls for a number of measures including the protection of journalists and their sources as well as the respect to everyone’s right to privacy.

For the UN Special Rapporteur attacks on a free press violate the letter and spirit of the right to freedom of expression.

“To clamp down on unwanted expression or seal off information from the public, those in power often deploy pretexts instead of legitimate justifications genuinely rooted in the protection of national security or public order,” he said.

“This is particularly harmful in situations of violence and extremism where more space for free speech is so crucial,” the human rights expert stressed.

(*) Check the joint declaration:
English: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15921&LangID=E
French: http://www.ohchr.org/FR/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15921&LangID=F