United Nations: Human Rights Committee discusses the adoption of a new general comment on freedom of opinion and freedom of expression
The Human Rights Committee, the monitoring body of the United Nations’ Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, discusses a draft General Comment relating to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression. The Covenant enshrines in Article 19 basic communicative freedoms like the freedom to hold an opinion without interference and the right to freedom of expression including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas in any form. The Human Rights Committee consists of 18 independent experts. Part of its tasks lays in the interpretation of the Covenant’s rights and the ensuing obligations for state parties to the Covenant in the light of its decisions and of societal developments.
Concerning the media and the work of journalists, the Human Rights Committee states in the draft that a free and unhindered press or other media constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. State parties should, therefore, take care to encourage an independent and diverse media. As the consumption of the mass media has changed due to the development of Internet-based information dissemination systems, state parties should foster the independence of these new media and guarantee individuals’ access thereto. In the view of the Committee, it is incompatible with the Covenant to impose restrictions on Internet content solely on the basis that the content may be critical of government. State parties should, moreover, guarantee the independence and editorial freedom of public service broadcasting and provide funding in ways that it does not affect the broadcaster’s independence.
The draft General Comment is to be discussed on the forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council in July 2011 in Geneva. Further developments will be addressed here.
View the Draft general comment No. 34 here.