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Freedom of Opinion and Expression - Individual Complaints

The Special Rapporteur is mandated to promote and protect the freedom of opinion and expression. To that end the Commission on Human Rights has requested the Special Rapporteur to seek, in the form of urgent appeal and allegation letters (communications), and receive credible and reliable information from governments, non-governmental organizations and any other parties who have knowledge of pertinent situations and cases. All communications sent and received are confidential and remain so until the end of the reporting cycle, when the special rapporteur submits an annual report to the Commission on Human Rights on communications sent and replies received from Governments on specific cases.

It should be stressed that the dialogue established with governments by the Special Rapporteur and the transmission of allegations concerning their countries in no way implies any kind of accusation or value judgment on the part of the Special Rapporteur, but rather a request for clarification with a view to trying to ensure, along with the government concerned, the protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The Special Rapporteur is particularly interested in receiving information on problems and violations related to:

(a) Detention of, discrimination against, or threats or use of violence and harassment, including persecution and intimidation, directed at persons seeking to exercise or to promote the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including professionals in the field of information;

(b) Activities of political opposition parties and trade union activists, whether a group or an individual;

(c) Actions against the media (print and broadcast) or impediments to their independent operation;

(d) Actions against publishers and performers in other media, including books, magazines, film and theatre and the studio arts;

(e) Activities of human rights defenders (e.g. lawyers, community activists);

(f) Women's human rights, within the context of obstacles - including laws and practices - which impede the right of women to express their views and be heard, participate in the decision-making process, have equal standing before the law, and seek and receive information on matters of particular relevance to them such as family planning and violence against women;

(g) Obstacles to access to information at the local, regional and national levels on projects and initiatives proposed by the Government to advance the right to development and obstacles to participation in the decision-making process, as well as obstacles to access to information on other subjects such as environmental and health impact studies, national budgets, social spending, industrial development projects and trade policies. (E/CN.4/1999/64).

Urgent appeals

The Special Rapporteur will act upon receiving credible information on concrete incidents and individual cases related to the infringement of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Upon receipt of prima facie credible and reliable information, the Special Rapporteur transmits the information to the Government concerned and requests it to provide him with comments and observations.

Allegation letters

For those communications that do not require urgent action but relate to violations that already occurred and/or to general patterns of violations - including the legal framework and its application as regards the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to seek and receive information – the Special Rapporteur may send allegation letters requiring Governments to clarify the substance of the allegations received.

Guidelines for the submission of information to the Special Rapporteur-Questionnaire