Freedom of Expression

Over the past few years, many of Freedom House’s publications, including Freedom in the World, Freedom of the Press and Freedom on the Net: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media, have pointed to worrisome declines in freedom of expression in countries around the world. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In practice, however, this fundamental human right is frequently restricted through tactics that include censorship, restrictive press legislation, and harassment of journalists, bloggers and others who voice their opinions, as well as crackdowns on religious minorities and other suppression of religious freedom. In response to the growing problem, Freedom House is engaging in a multi-faceted Freedom of Expression Campaign to defend this critical right.

Within individual countries, Freedom House employs advocacy, financial support, and technical assistance to support efforts by local free expression advocates to oppose or overturn media laws that restrict journalists’ ability to cover crucial issues, including through criminal insult, defamation or libel laws. Freedom House also organizes and participates in delegations of experts to countries that have recently implemented or are drafting legislation limiting free expression. These delegations collaborate with local organizations and free expression advocates to recommend changes to legislation and to develop advocacy campaigns addressing the restrictive laws.
 

Internationally, Freedom House focuses on resisting efforts at the United Nations to restrict existing norms protecting freedom of expression. These efforts include creating international legal mechanisms banning language deemed “defamatory of religions,” as well as organizing annual delegations to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and to the UN Third Committee in New York to educate member states on key freedom of expression issues and to resist attempts to restrict freedom of expression. Freedom House also regularly gives oral interventions at the UNHCR, submits written reports and letters to the council, holds side panel sessions, and sends letters advocating for freedom of expression directly to state representatives.

Research & Reports

Freedom of the Press 2016

Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015, as political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power.

Freedom on the Net 2015

Internet freedom around the world has declined for the fifth consecutive year, with more governments censoring information of public interest and placing greater demands on the private sector to take down offending content. The goal of these restrictions is usually to protect powerful figures and the official views on religion or morality that may undergird leaders’ popularity.

Programs

Freedom House works in Eurasia to protect professional and citizen journalists, to bolster activist capacity, and to support LGBTI rights activists.

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