Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental human rights outlined by the United Nations and applicable to all of us. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("UNDHR") says:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers"
All universal human rights are important and need protecting, but freedom of expression is very important in supporting people's access to other human rights. During its first session in 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 59 (I), which states:
"Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and ... the touchstone of all freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated..."
Freedom of expression is important for all of us in helping us to exchange ideas and learn. It also enables us to hold our governments to account and criticise them when we think that they are making mistakes.
Everyone, without any kind of discrimination....
Sometimes the freedom of expression is restricted. This is only ok if it is (a) necessary and (b) provided for by the law and (c) the least restrictive as possible. Examples of justification where international law permits some restrictions on freedom of expression are:
However in some countries in the world restrictions are placed on the freedom of expression, which Article 19 does not allow for. For example:
*Smith, Rhona K. M. Textbook on International Human Rights, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 288-292