UNESCO promotes freedom of expression, access to information and safety of journalists at the Human Rights Council

During the 49th Session of the Human Rights Council, UNESCO delivered statements on three issues related to the importance of access to information for persons with disabilities, the safety of journalists, and the vital role played by free and independent media – underscoring the importance of upholding information as a public good.
Human Rights Council

During the debate on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), UNESCO stressed the potential of this process to enhance multilateralism: bringing to the table different stakeholders and ensuring that their voices are not only heard, but also amplified. This was also an opportunity for UNESCO to introduce its recent partnership with Amnesty International which aims at empowering civil society organizations to raise freedom of expression concerns in their UPR engagement, and to follow up so that these commitments are actually implemented at a local level.

The OHCHR´s report on the right of access to information, focused on good practices for establishing national normative frameworks that foster access to information held by public entities. UNESCO took this opportunity to recognize the positive trend of a growing number of Access to Information laws (135 UN Member States have such laws), as well as trends that show there is still much to be done in implementing these laws. The report recognized the abundance of normative guidance and good practices to design, align and amend national legal frameworks in line with international human rights law and allow for effective ways of providing access to information. The report highlights several recommendations, and notes that for national normative frameworks to best foster access to information, their compatibility with a State’s human rights obligations should be ensured at the drafting stage.

In terms of the right to Access to information and persons with disabilities, UNESCO highlighted in an issue brief, how 37 laws explicitly refer to persons with disabilities and their rights to varying degrees. Furthermore, where reference is made to persons with disabilities and accessibility of information, the scope of the disabilities covered and the rights secured are rather limited or not always clear.

UNESCO, through its Liaison Office in Geneva, works to strengthen the integration of issues related to safety of journalists, access to information and freedom of expression in the deliberations and outcomes of the Human Rights Council. UNESCO will continue to contribute to plenary discussions and participate in relevant side events.

The UN Human Rights Council is the principal intergovernmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing and taking action on human rights violations around the globe.