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Human Rights Law Review
Freedom of Expression: Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No 34
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freedom of expression Article 19 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Human Rights Committee General Comment No 34
Freedom of expression is essential to the good working of the entire human rights system. It is inevitable that so fundamental a human right as freedom of expression is also among the most violated of rights. Responding to the array of assaults, abuses, concerns and gaps requires multi-faceted action from many actors. Crucial to the effectiveness of all such responses will be the existence of a strong normative framework in the form of international human rights law in support of freedom of expression. One should thus enquire as to whether the existing standards are adequate to their function. The present article frames a response to that question around the principal global expression of the right in Article 19 (paragraphs 2 and 3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The article opines that the Human Rights Committee has interpreted Article 19 in a manner that favours a wide enjoyment of free expression and that it has applied the restriction clauses narrowly. The jurisprudence, inevitably, only addresses a small range of issues and, notwithstanding the many additional indications to be found in the Committee’s Concluding Observations, there remain areas of uncertainty regarding the scope and application of the Article. Thus was set the context, in 2009, for the Committee’s decision to develop a new General Comment on Article 19. The present author served as the Committee’s rapporteur for the development of what became General Comment No 34. The article concludes with an analytical review of the drafting process and of the adopted text and assesses the first phases of the reception of the General Comment by States and others.
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