Revitalising freedom of expression at a time of reckoning

Can the international human rights system properly address the diverse and formidable challenges to freedom of expression today? This paper distinguishes a set of global freedom of expression issues – namely, attacks on individuals speaking out, restrictions on content, and the curtailment of civic space – and provides a critical assessment of the normative standards developed by UN human rights bodies in response. In doing so, it emphasises the growing influence of a burgeoning international freedom of expression movement upon the development, understanding and implementation of ‘international freedom of expression law’, particularly soft law, under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The paper argues for a revitalisation of a global approach to the protection of freedom of expression based on the recognition and reinforcement of the interrelationship between states, UN human rights actors, civil society organisations, the media and companies.