Module 9: National Security
Modules on Litigating Freedom of Expression and Digital Rights in South and Southeast Asia
- “National security” is a common justifications offered by states for limiting freedom of expression by journalists, bloggers, and media organs. However, it has the potential to be relied upon to quell dissent and cover up state abuses.
- National security legislation can have wide‑reaching implications for media freedom and can be abused in ways that effectively avoid constitutional checks and balances.
- The Johannesburg and the Tshwane Principles, alongside the Siracusa Principles, provide guidance on the extent of the national security limitation in relation to media freedom and access to information although they only constitute non-binding international law.
- Recent instances of terrorism have caused international decision-makers to seek to better define terrorist activities in order to ensure that limitations of fundamental rights based on combatting terrorism are properly prescribed by law.
- There is a strong presumption that prior restraints on freedom of expression, even where imposed to protect national security, represent a breach of guarantees of this right, for example as set out in the precedent by the United States Supreme Court in the Pentagon Papers case.