1995/40. Right to freedom of opinion and expression

The Commission on Human Rights,

Guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms the right to freedom of opinion and expression,

Mindful of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which reaffirms, in article 19, the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, and states that
the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but that these shall be only such as are provided by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, or for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health and morals,

Mindful also that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that any propaganda for war or any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law,

Recalling its resolution 1993/45 of 5 March 1993, in which it decided to appoint a special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression,

Recalling also its resolutions 1984/26 of 12 March 1984, 1985/17 of 11 March 1985, 1986/46 of 12 March 1986, 1987/32 of 10 March 1987, 1988/37 and 1988/39 of 8 March 1988, 1989/31 of 6 March 1989 1989/56 of 7 March 1989, 1990/32 of 2 March 1990, 1991/32 of 5 March 1991, 1992/22 of 28 February 1992 and 1994/33 of 4 March 1994,

Taking note of resolution 1983/32 of 6 September 1983 of the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities,

Taking note also of the reports and the final conclusions and recommendations on the right to freedom of opinion and expression submitted to the Subcommission at its forty-second, forty-third and forty-fourth sessions by the Special Rapporteurs, Mr. Louis Joinet and Mr. Danilo Türk (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/11, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/9 and E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/9 and Add.1),

Considering that the effective promotion of the human rights of persons who exercise the right to freedom of opinion and expression is of fundamental importance to the safeguarding of human dignity,

Noting the comment in the final report of the Special Rapporteurs that the right to freedom of opinion and expression is interrelated with and enhances the exercise of all other human rights,

Deeply concerned by numerous reports of detention of, as well as discrimination, threats and acts of violence and harassment, including persecution and intimidation, against professionals in the field of information, including journalists, editors, writers and authors, translators, publishers, printers and distributors,

Deeply concerned also that for many women in many parts of the world there exists a gap between the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the effective implementation of that right and that this contributes to the under-reporting of incidents of discrimination based on sex and inadequate action by Governments to investigate and take appropriate remedial action in response to these incidents,

1. Welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (E/CN.4/1995/32), and endorses his conclusion that freedom of expression is a fundamental right, the enjoyment of which illustrates in many ways the degree of enjoyment of all human rights enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights;

2. Also welcomes the Special Rapporteur's statement that the right to seek or have access to information is one of the most essential elements of freedom of speech and expression;

3. Notes that the Special Rapporteur recognized in his first report (E/CN.4/1994/33) the need to cooperate with other special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts, working groups and other United Nations mechanisms and procedures in the field of human rights, and encourages the Special Rapporteur to continue his efforts in this regard;

4. Expresses concern at the inadequate resources, both human and material, provided to the Special Rapporteur, and accordingly reiterates its request to the Secretary-General to provide, within existing overall United Nations resources, all the assistance necessary to the Special Rapporteur to fulfil his mandate effectively, in particular by strengthening the human and material resources placed at his disposal;

5. Requests the Secretary-General to consider ways of publicizing, particularly within the framework of the information activities of the Centre for Human Rights, the work of the Special Rapporteur, as well as recommendations made by him;

6. Expresses its concern at the extensive occurrence of detention of, as well as discrimination, threats and acts of violence and harassment, including persecution and intimidation, directed at persons who exercise the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the intrinsically linked rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs as affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, where applicable, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

7. Also expresses its concern at the extensive occurrence in many parts of the world of detention of, as well as discrimination, threats and acts of violence and harassment, including persecution and intimidation, directed at persons who seek to promote and defend these rights and freedoms;

8. Emphasizes that professionals in the field of information play a major role in the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, and expresses in this regard its deep concern at the numerous reports received by the Special Rapporteur of detention of, as well as discrimination, threats and acts of violence and harassment, including persecution and intimidation, directed at such professionals, including journalists, editors, writers and authors, translators, publishers, printers and distributors;

9. Expresses its concern at the number of cases of arbitrary detention ordered following the exercise of rights protected by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning the right to freedom of opinion and expression;

10. Welcomes the release of persons detained for exercising these rights and freedoms, and encourages further progress in this regard;

11. Urges the Special Rapporteur, within the framework of his mandate, to draw to the attention of the High Commissioner for Human Rights those situations regarding freedom of opinion and expression which are of particularly serious concern to the Special Rapporteur;

12. Invites the Special Rapporteur to pay particular attention to the situation of women and the relationship between the effective implementation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and incidents of discrimination based on sex committed against them;

13. Appeals to all States to ensure respect and support for the rights of all persons who exercise the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, peaceful assembly and association, and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, or who seek to promote and defend these rights and freedoms and, where any persons have been detained, subjected to violence or threats of violence and to harassment, including persecution and intimidation, solely for exercising these rights as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, where applicable, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to take the appropriate steps to ensure the immediate cessation of these acts and to create conditions under which these acts may be less liable to occur;

14. Also appeals to all States to ensure that persons seeking to exercise these rights and freedoms are not discriminated against, particularly in such areas as employment, housing and social services;

15. Invites once again the working groups, representatives and the special rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights to pay attention, within the framework of their mandates, to the situation of persons detained, subjected to violence, ill-treated or discriminated against for having exercised the right to freedom of opinion and expression as affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, where applicable, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

16. Urges all Governments to cooperate with and assist the Special Rapporteur in the performance of his tasks and to provide all information necessary in order to permit him fully to carry out his mandate;

17. Requests the Special Rapporteur, in his next report, to develop further his commentary on the right to seek and receive information and to expand on his observations arising from communications;

18. Also requests the Special Rapporteur to submit to the Commission at its fifty-second session a report covering the activities relating to his mandate;

19. Decides to review this matter at its fifty-second session.
53rd meeting
3 March 1995
[Adopted without a vote. See chap. X. E/CN.4/1995/176]


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