A Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. This position is honorary and the expert is not United Nations staff nor paid for his/her work. The Special Rapporteurs are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
For more on Special Rapporteurs, please refer to Fact Sheet N° 27: Seventeen Frequently Asked Questions about United Nations Special Rapporteurs.
In 1993, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
After replacing the Commission on Human Rights, the Human Rights Council decided to extend the mandate for another three years in its resolution 7/36 of March 2008.
On 24 March 2011, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 16/4 which extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of three years".
The Special Rapporteur is mandated by HRC resolution 7/36:
(a) To gather all relevant information, wherever it may occur, relating to violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, discrimination against, threats or use of violence, harassment, persecution or intimidation directed at persons seeking to exercise or to promote the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including, as a matter of high priority, against journalists or other professionals in the field of information;
(b) To seek, receive and respond to credible and reliable information from Governments, non-governmental organizations and any other parties who have knowledge of these cases;
(c) To make recommendations and provide suggestions on ways and means to better promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression in all its manifestations; and
(d) To contribute to the provision of technical assistance or advisory services by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to better promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
In the discharge of his mandate the Special Rapporteur:
a) Transmits urgent appeals and letters of allegation to Member States on alleged violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The Special Rapporteur summarises these communications as well as replies received from Governments in an annual report submitted to the Human Rights Council (See Individual Complaints).
b) Undertakes fact-finding country visits.
c) Submits annual reports covering activities relating to the mandate to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly (starting in 2010 for the latter).