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ARTICLE 19 cautiously welcomes new resolution on freedom of expression

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 2 October 2009 - ARTICLE 19 welcomes the Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Expression adopted by consensus today at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). We regret however that ARTICLE 19's recommendations to strengthen the protection of freedom of expression were not incorporated in the final text.

"The adoption of the Resolution by consensus is a breakthrough. Especially so given the tensions and conflicts that have accompanied recent discussions on freedom of expression within the Human Rights Council and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights," comments Dr Agnes Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director.

The Resolution insists on the importance of freedom of expression, dialogues and debates, and the role of the media in combating racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. It includes specific paragraphs on the media and armed conflicts, and protection of journalists. Most importantly, the Resolution omits reference to defamation of religion, a concept against which human rights activists had virulently campaigned.

Unfortunately however, the Resolution makes reference to "religious stereotyping", a vague and difficult concept which suggests that religions, religious ideas and religious symbols (rather than believers) may be protected by international human rights law.

The Resolution also makes specific reference to another resolution against which human rights advocates around the world have advocated: HRC Resolution 7/36, which unnecessarily diluted the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.

"Unfortunately, the Resolution does contain two viruses. It will be incumbent upon member states of the HRC and civil society to ensure that these viruses are not allowed to flourish, multiply and gangrene the text and commitments. Instead, they shall be contained, by and through international human rights standards and principles, so that the Resolution can best function and offer the maximum protection to freedom of expression," continues Dr Callamard.

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