HRC39: Oral statement in response to the report of the High Commissioner


The following statement was delivered in response to the report of the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes Michelle Bachelet to her new role as High Commissioner for Human Rights. We encourage her to continue to be a voice for the voiceless, to call out violators and abusers, and ensure accountability and redress for survivors.

As High Commissioner Zeid warned in his departing note, violations of the right to freedom of expression are often followed by violations of other rights, and are a precursor to conflict. He made clear that any strategy to defend the universality of human rights must be underpinned by support for dissent – in particular for grassroots movements advocating for the most marginalised and discriminated against in our societies.

While ARTICLE 19 continues to advocate in this Council for the adoption of progressive resolutions on freedom of expression, the ultimate test of this body’s effectiveness will be the translation of commitments into action.

The “implementation gap” is widening to become a chasm.

Notwithstanding this Council’s repeated commitments on the safety of journalists, the situation facing those in the media is more dangerous than ever. The lack of progress in the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta is emblematic of this global crisis. So is the continued arbitrary detention of journalists such as Nedim Turfent in Turkey, Shahidul Alam in Bangladesh, and the continued imprisonment of Zhalaudi Geriev in Chechnya. The strategy of US President Trump to erode trust in the media by routinely disparaging both journalists and media outlets shows the dangers of the path we are currently on.

States must also live up to their Human Rights Council commitment to ensure that the same human rights that are protect offline, are also protected online. In Egypt, this requires the immediate repeal of the recently enacted Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes Law, and reforms to the Media Regulation Law. In Malaysia, the new government must show its commitment to protecting dissent, including online. The repeal of the anti-Fake News Act is welcome, but the repeal of the Sedition Act and Communications and Multimedia Act must follow.

Lastly, we share the High Commissioner’s mission of reversing hatred, in particular by elevating the voices of those who speak out against the chauvinistic nationalism peddled by politicians trading in fear and discrimination. In this regard, we recall the action plan for addressing intolerance set out in HRC resolution 16/18, and urge States to revive the Istanbul Process to ensure its implementation.

We look forward to supporting the High Commissioner and her office in her mandate.