ARTICLE 19 welcomes the 2024 Joint Declaration on Climate Crisis and Freedom of Expression

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the 2024 Joint Declaration on Climate Crisis and Freedom of Expression - Protection

limate protest coinciding with COP28 being held in Dubai in Brussels, Belgium, 3 December 2023. Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

Today, on 3 May 2024, as celebrations of World Press Freedom Day get underway in Santiago, Chile, the four international Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression have released their 2024 Joint Declaration on the Climate Crisis and Freedom of Expression. The special rapporteurs have issued joint declarations on contemporary challenges to freedom of expression each year since 1999. ARTICLE 19 welcomes the Joint Declaration, which sets out important standards in this area.

Read the Joint Declaration

The climate emergency is widely recognised as one of the greatest threats to humanity, presenting the international community with an unprecedented challenge and adversely impacting human rights.

ARTICLE 19 has long argued that the rights to freedom of expression and information and participation in decision-making processes are crucial for the development and execution of responses to climate emergency. Alongside other human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of information should provide ‘the legal baseline for how climate change is tackled’. Publicly-accessible information, public participation, and public debates on climate emergency issues are key practical tools for enhancing governmental action, and should therefore be included as crucial components of any relevant strategies.

Quinn McKew, ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director, comments:

“ARTICLE 19 welcomes the guidance offered by four free speech mandates on these issues. As documented by our work, the realisation of the right to freedom of expression and information is seriously flawed in relation to climate emergency.

“Our research shows that people are still being denied access to essential information about climate and environmental issues. Too often, people are starved of vital information that would allow them to fight against or prepare for the effects of climate emergency, and are left without any formal avenues to access information or raise their concerns, complaints or fears.

“States also use numerous means to repress climate change activists, stifle scientific research and exchange, and limit the right to protest. Journalists and activists who expose environmental degradation, investigate environmental wrongdoings, critique government officials or expose corruption face years of hardship and prosecutions.

“We urge States and other stakeholders to implement recommendations outlined by the special rapporteurs, raise awareness about these issues, and cooperate in finding solutions.”

The 2024 Joint Declaration provides a set of recommendations on how States and the private sector should respond to freedom of expression challenges connected to the climate emergency.

In particular, the Joint Declaration includes recommendations in areas of:

  • Access to information on environmental and climate issues: Here, the special rapporteurs offer a set of recommendations on meeting transparency obligations on environmental and climate issues, not only to States but also to the private sector and online platforms. For instance, they highlight that companies should make environmental information contained in contracts, concessions, agreements or other documents involving public resources public in a regular, simplified, and accessible manner.
  • Enabling environment for public participation and civic engagement: The Joint Declaration enumerates the actions that States must undertake to ensure that journalists, media outlets, civil society organisations, environmental or other human rights defenders, and everyone in society can meaningfully participate in addressing the climate crisis. This includes the protection of journalists and whistleblowers and others who frequently encounter elevated risks due to their work.
  • Upholding environmental journalism to scrutinise climate actions and enhance public debate: The Joint Declaration recognises journalism as a ‘catalyst for public debate, facilitating informed decision-making on the climate crisis’ and reiterates the need to ensure that journalists and media can report on climate issues without being threatened, attacked, censored, or coerced. It also asks for further support to initiatives that enhance independent environmental reporting, especially in remote areas impacted by climate change.
  • Access to justice in climate and environmental matters: The special rapporteurs ask States to ensure an adequate and effective legal remedy for all individuals whose rights are affected, as well properly equipping judicial systems with relevant knowledge and adequate human capacity to effectively resolve climate-related disputes.
  • The protection of marginalised groups: The Joint Declaration highlights the importance of collection and dissemination of data on the effects of the climate crisis disaggregated by gender, race, ethnicity, income, geography and other relevant factors to demonstrate the full, intersectional and disproportionate nature of the problems. It also urges States and other actors to facilitate access to information, especially scientific and journalistic work on the impact of the climate crisis, produced by and about historically discriminated groups (e.g. women, indigenous peoples or rural communities).


The four international experts on freedom of expression are:

  • Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression;
  • Teresa Ribeiro, the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe;
  • Pedro Vaca Villarreal, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; and
  • Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Soono, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information for the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.

Joint Declarations by the four special rapporteurs have been adopted annually since 1999, covering contemporary universal challenges to freedom of expression. Previous declarations are available here.

ARTICLE 19 has been coordinating and supporting the drafting of these Joint Declarations since 1999.

Read the Joint Declaration