Freedom of expression, including freedom of the press

 

The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Belgian Constitution and various provisions in human rights treaties, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This includes the right to form one's own opinion without interference, and to search for, receive and pass on information through all media. Freedom of opinion and expression are closely linked to other human rights, including the right to privacy, freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of religion or belief. This right is one of the cornerstones of any democratic society.

Journalists who can practise their profession safely and independently are an essential cornerstone of a well-functioning and open democracy. In addition to providing information, they also have a verifying role and can expose social abuses.

Journalists can only fulfil their role if they can work in complete independence, in an environment that respects freedom of expression, entailing freedom of information and freedom of the press. The World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders gives an indication of the extent to which journalists can work in safe conditions.

Within the framework of the United Nations, Belgium supports initiatives in the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the General Assembly that promote the safety of journalists. The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity is intended to contribute in this regard.

Belgium also supports the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including through participation in the interactive dialogues with this independent expert.

Finally, Belgium supports EU policy, which has developed guidelines on freedom of expression, both online and offline. With these Guidelines, the EU reaffirms its determination to promote freedom of opinion and expression in its external human rights policy as a right to be enjoyed by all, on the basis of the principles of equality, non-discrimination and universality.

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