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Human Rights Council 35: Freedom of Expression

This statement was delivered by the UK at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council during Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression on 13 June 2017.

The Human Rights Council takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
The Human Rights Council takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The UK strongly supports the importance of freedom of opinion and expression and welcomes the work and report of the Special Rapporteur. Freedom of opinion and expression is a right in itself and an enabler of other human rights. Citizens should be able to question, inform and hold to account those in authority.

Yet in many parts of the world we see attempts to limit freedom of expression, and restrict the role of the press and civil society.

The Special Rapporteur rightly focuses on the importance of digital access. We share his concern about the increasing incidences of internet shutdowns. We have supported the #KeepItOn project by Access Now which shows evidence of 56 internet shutdowns in 2016.

We support the view that any state interference with internet access or privacy must follow the principles of the rule of law, legitimate purpose, non-arbitrariness, effective oversight and transparency.

We acknowledge the role of the private sector, and the Special Rapporteur’s call for the private sector to ensure it does not cause, contribute to, or become complicit in human rights abuses.

We will continue to advocate freedom of expression online, and an open internet, through organisations such as the Freedom Online Coalition.

In an area of rapid technological development, especially in regard to social media, what best practices has the Special Rapporteur observed for states and the private sector working together to ensure that the internet is an accessible and safe environment?

Published 14 June 2017