The Internet has significantly changed our lives in the past years in many areas, including the way we access and publish information. But most importantly, it has enhanced the exercise of our freedom of expression rights both by allowing access to various sources of information but also by significantly democratizing the open publishing of any kind of information.
Consequently, this has turned the freedom of expression – especially in the online environment – in a subject that concerns us all. Not just the journalists or the NGOs dealing with freedom of expression.
Also it has become essential that the information explaining the basic concepts around freedom of expression and the relevant court’s jurisprudence are simplified and explained to a large audience that could be interested in the subject.
While many books and legal studies for judges or other legal practitioners have been published on the subject matter, we believe there is now even greater need to simplify and explain the fundamentals of freedom of expression, especially as applied to the digital world. All this is presented through the lens of the current jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), that should be the main reference point for all European Internet users.
The idea of this brochure emerged also as a result of a few personal experiences in dealing with freedom of expression in the past years:
First, the subject seems to be interesting not only for professional journalists, but also for various other kinds of Internet users who have very diverse educational backgrounds, and, in general, not too much legal knowledge. Nevertheless, they all engage in communicating information on the Internet and sometimes claim the breach of their freedom of expression rights.
Secondly, the policy decision making process surrounding freedom of expression often seems to be hasty, without enough time being allowed for lengthy public debates or for the use of detailed or comprehensive reports, as basis for the decisions. This is especially true for certain countries in South and Eastern Europe. Therefore excerpts of ECtHR arguments and conclusions can be widely accepted points of reference and, as a consequence, a useful advocacy tool in a debate.
Thirdly, in front on the information flow available today many users are looking for easy to understand, distilled information in order to shape their opinion (and not for blocks of legalese text that could look far away or from another century).
But we believe most of the decisions and arguments for freedom of expression in the ECtHR jurisprudence are easily understandable for a wider audience, if presented properly.
Read the full report here or download it below.