Freedom of expression


More than 3,000 magistrates debate freedom of expression

Respect for freedom of expression, free and independent media, journalists able to do their job without fearing for their lives – these are all indispensable conditions for any true rule of law.

Security forces and judicial institutions play a key role in guaranteeing these fundamental rights and freedoms. This is why UNESCO organizes awareness campaigns and capacity-building activities for police officers and magistrates in many countries. The year 2019 was particularly dynamic, with numerous events and initiatives especially in Latin America. It began with the publication of two Massive On Line Courses (MOOCs), accessible in all countries of the subcontinent as well as in Portugal and Spain.

The first was a six-week MOOC on freedom of expression, for which more than 2,200 judges and magistrates registered; a second, more in-depth MOOC on the same subject was followed by nearly 500 participants.

High‑Level Political Forum in New York

In March, during the second United Nations High-Level Conference on South-South cooperation, which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, UNESCO held a side event to discuss the results and next steps of its magistrates’ initiative, notably regarding South-South cooperation projects.

In May, the discussions continued in San José, Costa Rica, during a regional debate at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the protection of freedom of expression in the digital environment. In addition, UNESCO and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights signed an agreement in October at Headquarters in Paris, aiming to strengthen the protection of freedom of expression, press freedom and the safety of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists: annual report, 2019

And throughout the year, UNESCO and its partners organized capacity-building workshops for judges and prosecutors in many countries – Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay – with the support of local judiciary institutions.

In total, in the first half of 2019, more than 3,000 judges and magistrates took part in training sessions provided by UNESCO on the critical issues surrounding freedom of expression, free access to information and the safety of journalists.

Journalists are essential in preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression. When [they] are attacked with impunity, there is a breakdown in security and judicial systems for all.
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

Supporting freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists

The crucial work of journalists in providing reliable information to citizens is undermined by increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and by persistent online and physical attacks. Women journalists are particularly subject to harassment and threats, especially online.