Module 1: Key Principles of International Law and Freedom of Expression
Since at least the formation of the United Nations (UN) and the establishment of the modern regime of international human rights law in the wake of World War II, the right to freedom of expression has become universally acknowledged. An example of this universal acknowledgement is found in the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India from the Supreme Court of India, in which the Court stated:
The Preamble of the Constitution of India inter alia speaks of liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. It also says that India is a sovereign democratic republic. It cannot be over emphasized that when it comes to democracy, liberty of thought and expression is a cardinal value that is of paramount significance under our constitutional scheme.
Supreme Court of India, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 167 (2012) at para. 8 (emphasis added) (1)
Because the right to freedom of expression is protected in so many treaties and soft law instruments, and widely acknowledged in domestic constitutional guarantees, it has come to be regarded as a principle of customary international law.(2) Nevertheless, today’s rapidly evolving world is presenting new and unprecedented threats to the full realisation of the right to freedom of expression for many around the world, especially journalists and the media. In order for defenders of freedom of expression in South and Southeast Asia to address these new challenges adequately, it is crucial to have a firm understanding of freedom of expression in international law.
This Module seeks to provide an overview of the key principles related to freedom of expression in international law and provide a foundation for understanding how to use these principles in the new digitally-connected world.