Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression, association and assembly

Protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly is essential for human rights defenders to do their vital work to ensure freedom, dignity, equality and justice for all.

The rights to gather together, share our views, raise our grievances, express dissent, propose solutions, and protest for change are vital for progress and for the realisation of all other human rights. 

Exercising, promoting and protecting these rights – the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly – is integral to the work of human rights defenders and to the promotion and protection of all other rights. Each of the rights is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and many national constitutions and laws.

Unfortunately, some governments, businesses and other non-state actors do not welcome scrutiny, accountability, criticism, free speech or calls for change. In some countries human rights defenders face threats and attacks, have their organisations shut down, and are criminalised, detained or even killed merely for speaking out or protesting. They may also face intimidation or reprisals for providing evidence or testimony to the UN. 

ISHR supports human rights defenders in the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association at the international and regional levels, including by accrediting and supporting defenders to attend and speak out at the UN and in regional fora such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We also stand up for defenders when their rights are violated or denied, mobilising high-level officials within the UN and allied governments to speak out and push for accountability when defenders are subject to attacks, threats or restrictions. At the national level, our work with local partners to promote the enactment of human rights defender protection laws helps ensure that defenders’ rights to free speech, access to information, peaceful protest, freedom of association and public participation, among others, are guaranteed under national law.

Latest updates

Check out all the latest updates to this topic

Elections | Human Rights Council Pledging Event 2021

This week in an online event, 10 candidate States publicly spoke to an audience of around 200 people on their pledges as incoming Human Rights Council members for 2022 – 2024. They also faced questions on pressing human rights issues from both States and civil society organisations.

HRC 47 | Human Rights Council adopts agenda for transformative change for racial justice and equality

ISHR welcomes the Council’s historic consensus decision, led by the Africa Group, to adopt a resolution mandating an independent international expert mechanism to address systemic racism and to promote racial justice and equality for Africans and people of African descent. The adoption of this resolution is testament to the resilience, bravery and commitment of victims, their families, their representatives and anti-racism defenders globally.

Join us

Don't miss out on our latest vital work on freedom of expression, association and assembly