Freedom of Expression - democratic rights

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The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) set out, as a matter of law, the guarantee of the right to freedom of expression. Both instruments set out the guarantee at Article 19. As socialists we understand that freedom of expression is not only essential in its own right, but it is central to the achievement of other civil, political, social and economic human rights.

The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders 1988 holds states responsible for taking steps to protect those who defend human rights. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is not legally binding, but it does bring together a number of other conventions and covenants relating to human rights defenders that are legally binding. However, as socialists we understand that whilst it is necessary to try and use the law to defend human rights defenders, international solidarity is the key to defend human rights in general, and the freedom of expression in particular.

As socialists we defend the right to free speech, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. We argue that a central platform to that right is to publicise and campaign around political ideas without fear, interference or imprisonment. The right is important for the protection of human rights, and the development of social justice.

Freedom of expression is an important element for socialists and trade unionists to operate in defending human rights. It is also essential in order that we are able to explain that capitalism and neo-liberalism is redundant, bankrupt and corrupt to its core. It is no accident, therefore, that many of those who are attacked for exercising their freedom of expression are socialists, trade unionists and those who seek to expose the excesses of globalisation.

It is also no accident that states and non-state actors (such as corporations) seek to silence defenders’ campaigns and organisations. There is no doubt that intimidation is used to silence the global demand for social justice.  As socialists we are committed to defending the human rights work of activists, and we build solidarity to counter threats, intimidation or harassment. State and non-state actors use their own security apparatus, big business interests, armed groups, and even religious leaders silence the message of social justice – we are committed to ensuring those voices, campaigns, and organisations of the working class are not silenced.