Global Freedom of Expression


Global Trends in Freedom of Expression Jurisprudence in 2014

Key Details

  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, Hate Speech, National Security

New Release!

Paper prepared for
Columbia University, 10-11 March 2015


A year ago, when we met for the first Columbia University Jurisprudence Conference, there was strong evidence that political instability worldwide was on the rise after nearly 20 years of decline in political violence worldwide.  12 months later, it is not just that the global situation has deteriorated.  The nature, scale and extent of the challenges have dramatically transformed. What constituted localized, small or larger, armed violence and escalating political violence in 2014 have now morphed into full-blown warfare, most often regional or international in nature and involving many parties.  It is thus not surprising that the latest Global Peace and Terrorism Indexes should show a notable deterioration in levels of peace, and a 61% increase in the number of people killed in terrorist attacks over the last year.

Global analyses of freedom of expression in 2014, available at the time of writing this article, also highlight the worldwide deterioration in indicators and indexes. According to Reporters Without Border 2014 world press freedom index, “Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents.  The indicators compiled by Reporters Without Borders are incontestable. There was a drastic decline in freedom of information in 2014. Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index performed less well than in the previous year.” The Committee to Protect Journalists, focusing on imprisoned journalists highlight similar depressing trends: By the end of 2014, it had identified 221 journalists imprisoned around the world in 2014, an increase of 10 from 2013: “The tally marks the second-highest number of journalists in jail since CPJ began taking an annual census of imprisoned journalists in 1990, and highlights a resurgence of authoritarian governments in countries such as China, Ethiopia, Burma, and Egypt.”

The world situation compelled Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch to write in the introduction to the organization’s 2015 World Report, “The world has not seen this much tumult for a generation.

The full paper is available for download under Publications. 


Agnès Callamard

Secretary General, Amnesty International
Former Director, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression; Special Adviser to the President, Columbia University; United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions