On 10 July 2019, the mandate-holders for freedom of expression published the Joint Declaration on Challenges to Freedom of Expression in the Next Decade (2019 Joint Declaration). The four mandate-holders are the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression for the United Nations (UN), the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Representative on Freedom of the Media for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for the Organization of American States (OAS).
The 2019 Joint Declaration denounces the continued prevalence of undue legal restrictions on online expression and their abusive application, and deplores arbitrary disruptions and shutdowns to restrict access to telecommunications networks and the internet. The 2019 Joint Declaration further observes that:
[P]rivate companies have responsibilities to respect human rights and remedy violations, and that addressing the challenges outlined above requires multi-stakeholder support and the active engagement of State actors, media outlets, intermediaries, civil society and the general public.
The 2019 Joint Declaration highlights the following key challenges:
- Creating an environment that enables the exercise of freedom of expression, noting that the protection and promotion of freedom of expression, especially in the digital environment, requires protection and appropriate legal rules and regulatory systems.
- Building and maintaining a free, open and inclusive internet, noting that the exercise of freedom of expression requires a digital infrastructure that is robust, universal and regulated in a way that maintains it as a free, accessible and open space for all stakeholders.
- Private control as a threat to freedom of expression, noting that a transformative feature of the digital communications environment is the power of private companies – particularly social media, search platforms and other intermediaries – over communications, with enormous power concentrated in the hands of just a few companies.
The 2019 Joint Declaration is accessible (via the OSCE website) here.
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