United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Ensuring freedom of expression for artists and journalists

The freedom of expression is indisputably a fundamental human right and an indication of a civilized society. It is the right to express one’s feelings and opinions through different forms of communication without harming particular beings. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization supports the idea of international peace and universal respect for human rights by promoting collaboration between states. Since people should have equal rights and be able to act in conformity with their own beliefs, freedom of speech for artists ought to be provided all around the world. Attacks on artists are often perpetrated by organized crime groups, militia, security personnel and local police. These attacks include murder, abductions, harassment, intimidation, as well as illegal arrest and detention. Since 1992, 1236 artists have been killed because of expressing their thoughts in public. In 2016, 259 journalists were imprisoned and 456 of them were exiled from their country of origin. UNESCO has championed The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists which was further endorsed by the UN Chief Executives Board on 13 April 2012. The plan provides a framework for the UN to work on this issue with all stakeholders including national authorities, media houses and academia.

Article 10 of The European Convention on Human Rights gives everyone the right of freedom of expression. It includes political expression, artistic expression and commercial expression. However, in some states this right is flouted. Less-developed states as well as those which are under regimes or tackling wars, often prohibit free speech to varying degrees. Performers and the press are deprived of the right to voice their opinion and embody judgement calls.

Many states do not respect the right of freedom of expression and this problem needs to be addressed urgently. UNESCO encourages member-states to cooperate and find a solution to this concern.

Barbara Witczak & Maja Kajdasz,
Chairs of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization