Freedom of expression: Our rights, duties and responsibilities
Adv. Gabriel MUGISHO Dunia | Article | 2020/02/12
Half of the deadline to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is gone. Have we reached 50 percent of our goals to contribute to the acceleration of its achievement, particularly the respect of freedom of speech? DRC has a fractured legal system that is halting peace building and hindering prosperity and growth. My mission is to make the study of and improvement of the judicial system in the DRC my life’s work. I am writing this article, based on my experience as a Legal Advisor and director of legal affairs to the Catholic University of Bukavu (UCB) in DRC.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right. Everyone takes benefit from it because it is essential to the realization of all the rights set forth in international human rights instruments, as recalled by the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica), the European Convention for the protection of Human rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples’ rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
That statement is recalled also by some resolutions such as the resolution 59(I) of the United General Assembly, of 14 December 1946, General Assembly resolution 45/76 A of 11 December 1990 on information in the service of humanity, and resolution 1997/27, of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, recognizing and guarantying the so called right.
With nine years of experience at an academic institution, I see this article as being an important step in my academic development. As a Certified Lawyer, I am frankly concerned about freedom of expression, access to information and safety of journalism. I completed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on that theme with the University of Pretoria. I have taken the task to write this article through looking at our rights, duties and responsibilities as described by the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Theory of the fundamental rights
We have the right to speak, take a position and share it. Thinking about some general considerations about freedom of information (FOI) as a human right, let’s point out something about its importance, and his history.
The importance of this freedom can be subdivided in branches which can be brought to a main point in limiting the disorder of a government. In order to make governments accountable, citizens have the right to know – the right of access to official documents. Freedom of information has been developing at a strong pace only recently, but it is hardly a new concept. The roots of the FOI principle date back to the 18th Century, the Age of Enlightenment. After that I will try to present our rights and, duties and criticisms about responsibilities. In modern cities, we all have freedom of many actions. The important one in this exercise is related to speech. Such freedom can make disorder. That’s why freedom is considered not only a right but also a duty and responsibility. About rights, we may consider that we have all rights to observe and denounce all bad things. Maybe they can appear as a relation between states (governments) and their citizens or about citizens among themselves.
The application of this right is firstly important in the relation between the states and their citizens. For instance, ministries have made unjust decisions in order to benefit one person in a given community. The examination of such rights might be considered as a supplement to more rights of communities. However, freedom of expression gives us rights and duties. Many things must appear as obligation to one who uses this freedom.
Many institutions in many countries don’t, for example, accept criticism of a president or another authority in the republic. This precaution could be considered illegal because freedom of expression is truly expressed in both international Conventions and constitutions of many countries if not at all. However, if we consider this principle as absolute, disorder will appear. Frankly, I consider the freedom of speech as limited in time and spaces. It’s because every right is associated with duty.
If we assume that states have obligations to fulfill certain responsibilities (to protect and to respect or to realize human rights), then we can conclude that duties couldn’t have been greater than rights. In Rwanda-for example and many other countries in Africa one can’t speak publicly as wanted. Many African presidents remove that freedom as a right since freedom of expression can lead to destabilization of central institutions. In some cases, it’s true but in others, those policies become a violation of human rights in general and freedom of expression in particular.
Legislation provides that the journalists for instance, should respect their professional duties. If not, the media must be judged by civil and/or ordinary courts. Let’s point out what Frank said when teaching about human rights. He wrote that the right to freedom of expression gains added value when it is used to protect groups or minorities in need of particular attention, such as women, children, those living in extreme poverty, minorities, indigenous peoples and migrant populations.
That’s what influenced me to choose the two subjects because they must be seen together and the one help the other to be well exercised. When these rights are guaranteed by city-governments, then the world will be in a good mood. This should also enhance the respect of law in general. And we can translate this citation of Jean PICTET, a famous author who has contributed greatly to the literature in International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and whom the IHL competition is named after: “I am persuaded that the future of the world resides in respect of the Law.”
Unfortunate to a people who hurt a marginalized people and a person who will hurt a minority will be guilty on that basis.
TABLE OF CONTENT
I. Discussing our rights, duties and responsibilities 3
TABLE OF CONTENT 5