Women UN UDHR

Scope of Freedom of Expression

This Module focuses on the extent and limits of freedom of expression under international human rights treaties beginning with the ICCPR, as well as under the regional human rights conventions of Europe, the Americas and Africa. The Module includes extensive readings and jurisprudence on the three-part test, the legal test that governs in many countries around the world the legitimate restrictions to freedom of expression

9 items found, showing 1 - 9
Author: Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, Agnès Callamard
Media Type Icon

In this segment of the MOOC 'Freedom of Expression in the Age of Globalization' created by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, Agnès Callamard reviews the international context which presided over the development and adoption of the ICCPR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the various debates which characterized the drafting of the provision related to freedom of expression. Callamard also explains two additional institutions which have made the ICCPR a particularly important tool for the protection of human rights and freedom of expression in particular.

Author: UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Media Type Icon

“This research report concerns the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and through any media – including in the form of art. As such, it provides an overview of the human rights law framework applicable to artistic freedom of expression, highlights several contemporary instances of threat to artistic freedom, and concludes with a limited number of recommendations for States, private actors and civil society.” 

UN Human Rights Council (Forty-Fourth Session), Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Freedom of Opinion and Expression. Artistic Freedom of Expression. A/HRC/44/49/Add.2. July 2020. 

Author: Adrienne Stone and Simon Evans
Media Type Icon

The Australian Constitution lacks a comprehensive statement of rights. The few rights which have been judicially recognized by the High Court of Australia have typically been narrowly interpreted. One such right is the freedom of political communication, which is a restricted/limited kind of free speech right. Though the early 1990s witnessed several decisions in which the freedom of speech was protected in fairly expansive ways, the doctrine was revised in 1997 due to growing doubts about its “more adventurous applications” within the Court. In Lange, the affirmation of the doctrine was accompanied by an emphasis on the limits imposed on the right by the text and structure of the Constitution, and the afterlife of Lange until Coleman witnessed the failure of all free speech challenges levelled in the High Court of Australia. In this article, Stone and Evans discuss how the decision in Coleman affirms the survival of the freedom of political communication as well as clarifies several aspects of the doctrine. They highlight that the quashing of Coleman’s conviction is reflective of the rejection of arguments about the legitimacy of the State’s endeavour to mandate civility in political communication. They argue that the Judiciary’s decision reveals a preference for public debate which tolerates insult as well as other forms of uncivil expression, and that such a justification “exposes the fragility of the consensus regarding the legitimacy of the implied freedom established in Lange.”

Stone, Adrienne, and Evans, Simon. “Australia: Freedom of Speech and Insult in the High Court of Australia”. International Journal of Constitutional Law 4, no. 4 (2006): 677-688.

Author: Susan Benesch
Media Type Icon

“Private social media companies regulate much more speech than any government does, and their platforms are being used to bring about serious harm. Yet companies govern largely on their own, and in secret. To correct this, advocates have proposed that companies follow international human-rights law. That law–by far the world’s best-known rules for governing speech–could improve regulation itself, and would also allow for better transparency and oversight on behalf of billions of people who use social media. This paper argues that for this to work, the law must first be interpreted to clarify how (and whether) each of its provisions are suited to this new purpose. For example, the law provides that speech may be restricted to protect national security, as one of only five permissible bases for limiting speech. Governments, for which international law was written, may regulate on that basis, but not private companies which have no national security to protect. To fill some of the gap, the paper explains and interprets the most relevant provisions of international human-rights law–Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which pertain to freedom of expression–for use by social media companies, in novel detail.”

Benesch, Susan. “But Facebook’s Not a Country: How to Interpret Human Rights Law for Social Media Companies.” Yale Journal on Regulation Online Bulletin 38 (2020): 86-111.

Author: Wayne Batchis
Media Type Icon

“Citizens United v. FEC has fundamentally reshaped American politics by enshrining into law a radical new conception of what it means to be a democratic participant. The Court strikes down, on freedom of speech grounds, a federal law prohibiting independent political expenditures by unions and corporations. Yet, throughout the approximately 180 pages of opinion, there is strikingly sparse discussion of just what “speech” is. Nor do any of the Justices adequately explore the rationale behind the phrase “corporate speech,” an arguably paradoxical syntactical combination rooted in the Court’s “freedom of expressive association” jurisprudence-a doctrine of relatively recent vintage. Justice Stevens’ passionate dissent is laced throughout with the concession that corporations themselves engage in “speech”-a term that, on its face, would seem to require a human “speaker.” Thus even the dissent implicitly accepts the default position that corporations are potentially eligible for protections clearly designed by the First Amendment’s framers for human beings. Legal academics and journalists of all stripes have likewise blithely accepted the conclusion that there is something called “corporate speech.” In doing so, the dissent and others who find the Citizens United decision troubling have unwittingly and unwisely ceded unnecessary ground. By reifying corporations and imbuing them with the sympathetic qualities of individual American citizens seeking to assert their fundamental First Amendment freedoms, the majority is able to craft an opinion that resembles constitutional common sense. In this article, I examine how the Court ultimately arrives at this destination. In the decades prior to Citizens United, the Court established that associating with others has a close nexus with the textual freedoms of speech and assembly, but the contours of the “right to associate” remained far from clear. I argue that the right to enhance individual expression through association gradually, and without acknowledgement, morphed into a right of the association itself I trace and critique this development, looking closely at Court precedent, the views of the Framers, and the core philosophical underpinnings of free speech. After Citizens United, the fiction of the “corporate speaker,” useful in other contexts, was inappropriately accorded First Amendment status. The result, I argue, is contrary to democratic and republican ideals-allowing corporations and other associations to become potent players in political contests intended for individual citizens.”

Batchis, Wayne. “Citizens United and the Paradox of “Corporate Speech”: From Freedom of Association to Freedom of the Association”. N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change 36(1) (2012): 5-55.

Author: IACtHR
Media Type Icon

“[T]he Government of Costa Rica […] submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights […] an advisory opinion request relating to the interpretation of Articles 13 [Freedom of thought and expression] and 29 [Restrictions Regarding Interpretation] of the American Convention on Human Rights […] as they affect the compulsory membership in an association prescribed by law for the practice of journalism […]. The request also sought the Court's interpretation relating to the compatibility of Law No. 4420 of September 22, 1969, Organic Law of the Colegio de Periodistas (Association of Journalists) of Costa Rica […], with the provisions of the aforementioned articles.”

IACtHR, Compulsory Membership in an Association Prescribed by Law for the Practice of Journalism. Advisory Opinion OC-5/85. Series A, No. 5. 13 November 1985

Author: M.G. Wallace
Media Type Icon

This article examines the constitutionality of Sedition Laws in the United States and its relation with the freedom of speech and expression. The author also provides an account of the historical underpinnings of Sedition Laws.

Wallace, M. G. "Constitutionality of Sedition Laws." Virginia Law Review 6, no. 6 (1920): 385-99. doi:10.2307/1064269.

Author: A. G. Noorani
Media Type Icon

This book review discusses the theory of Contempt of Court, in the context of its removal from the English courts, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Australian High Courts, and the Tasmanian case of a newspaper called The Mercury, and concludes with the note that though our Constitution adopted British law as frozen in 1950, it has failed to since then keep up with the developments in it, or with its spirit.

Noorani, A. G. "Contempt of Court and Free Speech." Economic and Political Weekly 36, no. 20 (2001): 1693-694. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4410630.

Author: Oxford Law Faculty
Media Type Icon

“This webinar, organized by the Bonavero Institute, UNESCO, and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford), discusses the challenges for freedom of expression, access to information, privacy and related rights posed by measures adopted by governments around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel is made up of Justice Edward Amoako Asante (President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice), Judge Darian Pavli (Judge at the European Court of Human Rights), Mr. Joan Barata (UNESCO expert; Center for Internet and Society and Cyber Policy Center, Stanford University) and Ms. Jennifer Robinson (prominent lawyer with expertise in media law, public law and international law) as speakers, and is chaired by Professor Kate O’ Regan (Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights).”

Oxford Law Faculty. “COVID-19 and Freedom of Expression”. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHEAyjF9r1Q.