Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice

Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice - Civic Space

Photo by Juliana Kozoski

Today, 3 May 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information and the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression launched their 2022 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice. ARTICLE 19 welcomes the Joint Declaration, which sets out important recommendations for States, tech companies, media outlets and other stakeholders. 

Around the world, women and girls suffer from various and intersecting forms of discrimination that deny them their full enjoyment of fundamental human rights. In their Joint Declaration, the special rapporteurs provide key recommendations on how the protection of the right to freedom of expression and gender equality should be jointly promoted. The right to freedom of expression and information plays an essential role in ending inequality and other forms of gender-based discrimination

Quinn McKew, Executive Director at ARTICLE 19 comments:

“ARTICLE 19 welcomes the guidance offered by the free speech mandates on how to tackle the gender inequalities in relation to freedom of expression. Narratives based on entrenched biases and patriarchal conventions have created structural and systemic barriers that actively exclude women and other marginalised communities from expressing themselves. ARTICLE 19 has long raised concerns about the rise in threats against women online, whether they be journalists, human rights defenders or average citizens. We believe that there is a desperate need to create an enabling environment, both online, and offline, for women to express themselves freely. ”

“We welcome that in their Joint Declaration, the free speech mandates have directed recommendations towards Internet intermediaries and companies whose content moderation practices and business models have not countered the chilling effect felt by many of the women who use their platforms.” McKew added.

The Joint Declaration offers a series of recommendations to all key stakeholders – States, the private sector, media outlets and civil society – on how to promote gender equity and justice both online and offline in order to ensure the full and effective exercise of the right to freedom of expression. The Joint Declaration hopes to enshrine itself as an intersectional instrument to encourage all stakeholders to tackle the issue of gender inequality.

The recommendations include:

  • States should remove structural and systemic barriers to equality, as well as discriminatory laws, policies and practices that impede women’s full enjoyment of all human rights;
  • States should protect and promote the participation and equality of women in the media sector;
  • States should enact specific legislation or update existing laws to prohibit, investigate and prosecute online sexual and gender-based violence;
  • Media outlets should take measures to increase women’s representation as managers and other positions;
  • Companies should ensure that their content moderation practices do not discriminate based on gender or other protected attributes. This includes making sure that their algorithms and other automated practices do not contribute to misogyny and gender-based violence through user engagement;
  • Internet intermediaries should ensure that their policies and practices do not further promote gender inequalities but instead make sure they promote the safety and participation of women on their platforms without fear of being targeted by gender-based abuse.
  • All stakeholders should encourage and promote the end of the digital divide by supporting the digital literacy of women and girls;
  • Sex and gender should be recognised as protected characteristics for the prohibition of advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence under Article 20(2) of the ICCPR.

Joint Declarations have been adopted by the Special Rapporteurs since 1999 with the aim of addressing current challenges to freedom of expression and providing recommendations to the actors involved to counteract the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of this right.

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