Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises everyone’s right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right has also been recognised by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which establishes:
‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.’
Article 19 also states that restrictions to this freedom ‘shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’
The Human Rights Council has further stated that to ensure the full enjoyment of this right,
‘States should refrain from imposing restrictions on: discussions on government policies and political debate; reporting on human rights, government activities and corruption; engaging in election campaigns, peaceful demonstrations or political activities; and expression of opinion and dissent, religion or belief, including by persons belonging to minorities or vulnerable groups.’
Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination states, ‘In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of rights’, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The right to freedom of expression and opinion has also been recognized in the following regional standards: the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José), the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, the African Charter on Human and Peoples´Rights, the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, in the Amsterdam Recommendations. Freedom of the Media and the Internet. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE, and in the • Bishkek Declaration. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Freedom of expression and opinion and the defence of the environment, land and territory:
Regarding environmental matters, States must ensure that the rights to freedom of opinion and expression ‘are protected whether they are being exercised within structured decision-making procedures or in other forums, such as the news or social media, and whether or not they are being exercised in opposition to policies or projects favoured by the State.’
Freedom of expression is a necessary condition for the realisation of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights, such as the right to life.
According to the Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment, a document developed by the UN, States should ensure a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment in order to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, and likewise, States should respect, protect and fulfil human rights, in order to ensure a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
As stated in the Framework Principles:
‘States must fully comply with their obligations in respect of human rights, such as freedom of expression, that are exercised in relation to the environment. Such obligations not only have independent bases in human rights law; they are also required in order to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights whose enjoyment depends on a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.’