MOOC FOE1x | 2.2.1 Post WW2: The UDHR & FoE&I | International Norms on Freedom of Expression


– Welcome to Week Two. This segment will focus on the emergence of the International Human Rights System immediately after the
end of World War Two. It will show that freedom of expression and information was central
to this construction. And to the vision for humanity behind the Universal
Declaration for Human Rights and indeed behind the establishment
of the United Nations. This is 1948, three years after the
end of World War Two. In some five years, there
had been 40 million deaths due to genocide, massacres,
mass bombings, disease and starvation. And massive destruction
throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East. In June 1945, a few weeks
after the end of the war on 8th of May, 1945, the
charter of the United Nations is adopted in San Francisco. Three years later in 1948,
the General Assembly of the United Nations adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also known as UDHR. The common standard of
achievement for all people and all nations. The result of the experience
of the second world war. With this the international
community will never again to allow such atrocities to re-occur. Given the nature of the second world war and in particular the genocide
and other mass atrocities, it is not surprising that
non-discrimination and equality constitute the key
principle at the heart of the UDHR and indeed of successive
human rights documents. And the human rights vision. It is not just World War Two, human history is replete with instances of racism and intolerance. Giving ways to crimes against
humanity and to genocide. So that the international
community identified discrimination, racial or
ethnic hatred as an abuse of human dignity as well
as a major cause of other massive violations. That is not surprising. And indeed, racism,
intolerance, and discrimination are abhorrent and must be combated with utmost determination. That is what the UDHR tell us. Less well known though, is the fact that the international and national
bodies in courts worldwide have also insisted that
the right to freedom of expression and information is
central to the international human rights regime. And to human dignity. And when you think about
it, the emphasis and focus on the right to freedom of
expression and information is also equally justified. Control over freedom of expression is the hand-maiden of power. Without such control, power is inconceivable. It is an instrument to assist in the attainment, preservation and continuance of someone’s power. Indeed, control over freedom of expression is a extension of physical
power into the mind and into the spirit. All the greatest man-made
calamities that have plagued the world for centuries, the Inquisition, slavery, the Holocaust, the genocides in Cambodia
and Rwanda, the Soviet gulag, and more recently now, the
ISIS sectarian killings and massacres. They’re not only involved
but they are required full control over expression, opinions, and indeed at times conscience. At the same times, as
they have mandated hatred over the others. Hatred over people and the
denial of their equality and of their humanity. And so it is not surprising
that as early as 1946, at its very first session, the United Nations’
General Assembly adopted Resolution 59-1 which states, “Freedom of Information is
a fundamental human right and the touchstone of
all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated. Two years later, the universal declaration
states in its preamble second paragraph, “The advent of a world in
which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and
belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed
as the highest aspiration of the common people.” And in Article 19, the UDHR proclaims, Everyone have the right
to freedom of expression; this right includes
freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and
impart information and ideals through any media, and regardless of frontiers. The dual importance
attributed to both known discrimination and freedom
of expression and information is also highlighted by the
very fact that immediately after the end of the
war, the United Nations established two sub-commissions. The first to be created
was a sub-commission on freedom of information
and of the press. It was short lived but its
establishment is very revealing. The second sub-commission
was the prevention of discrimination and the
protection of minorities. That sub-commission had
a much longer lifeline. The recognition of the centrality of freedom of expression and information to peace and security and
human rights does not mean that its protection is un-controversial. Far from it. In fact by 1949 already, the
initial post war recognition is quickly becoming the
victim of a new war. The emerging Cold War between a western bloc
and an eastern bloc. Between capitalism and communism. At the time, the Canadian
Colonel Humphrey, one of the drafters of the UDHR, described it as a deep incompatibility between the communist and liberal approach to the function of the press. And so in the 10 years
following the end of the war, the United Nations will attempt
on a number of occasions to adopt a convention on
freedom of information but that never happened. This included now long
forgotten draft convention on the international transmission of news. A convention on the right of correction. These were abandoned. Afraid that will beset similar
initiatives at the time, including a UK led convention
on freedom of information. First adopted by the General
Assembly of United Nations in 1949 but abandoned shortly thereafter. Still, out of the many hit and
miss of the first five years following the end of World War Two, the world inherited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A beautiful text of intent. A beautiful vision for the world. Inherent to the commitment
to freedom of expression and information and
Article 19 of the UDHR. Still to date, the most
generously stated commitment to freedom of expression and information. I will leave you with
the text of this article one more time. Because it has by many
standards survived very well the test of time. Everyone has the right
to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference. And to seek, receive and
impart information and ideals through any media and
regardless of frontiers. In this first segment, we have reviewed the birth of
the UN human rights system, in particular, of the central place that freedom of expression
and information played in the construction for human rights. And that vision for peace and security. In the next segment, we will turn our attention
to the implementation of this initial vision and aspiration. The adoption of the
International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the establishment of
the human rights committee. The international body
responsible for overseeing that states respect for human rights including Article 19 related
to freedom of expression is, indeed, implemented. Thank you.

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