“We agree with freedom of expression, but…”

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Such is stated in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN (UNUDHR), a document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December the 10th of 1948 shortly after the Second World War. 48 of the country members of the UN voted in favor of the declaration, including China, The United States, The United Kingdom and France. Only 8 of the members abstained themselves from the law, one of them being the Soviet Union.

Globalization has provided the population with the access to the internet, which can act as an endless supply of information and entertainment. However, many have spoken against the lack of censorship and regulation in the cyberworld, stating that there exists a necessity to control the network.

If the freedom of expression in the media should be “restricted to some extent or not through laws established by the government” is the main topic of this year’s Human Rights Council. While there were no nations speaking against the right of freedom of expression during the opening speeches, only one of them actually completely supported it - the United States.

“We agree with freedom of expression, but…” was around the way most countries presented their position in their opening speeches, mentioning conditions in which the right of freedom of speech may be violated. Many delegates stated the necessity of stopping the propagation of fake news, furthermore putting themselves against hate speech and any content, which may harm the protection and national safety of a country.

However, it begs the question - Can one only partially agree to the right of freedom of speech and expression? Is it still considered “freedom” if it gets to be censured and restricted, depending on the situation? Such has been brought up by the delegate of the US -“freedom cannot be partial”, affirmed the representative of the nation, mentioning the issue in the desire to restrict a right, which explicitly fights against restriction.

Japan - once again, a nation stating to be “pro-freedom of expression” - explained the need of verifying any content before giving it the seal of approval. But the question about how that verification is supposed to work was also brought up.

We still have yet to see how the delegates are going to deal with these issues in further debates.

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