Throughout history and across the world – from Mexico to Myanmar, Tunisia to Thailand – ordinary people have achieved extraordinary things by speaking out for what they believe in. 

Toppling ruthless dictators. Overthrowing discriminatory laws. Exposing government corruption. Blowing the whistle on Big Tech. All this – and much, much more – accomplished by people refusing to be silent about the things that matter. 

We’ve all heard of heroes who instigated monumental change in their lifetimes – from Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks to Edward Snowden, Gandhi to Greta Thunberg. But there are countless others. People who aren’t household names – whose names we may never even know – yet their voices echo down the ages in the progress they helped usher in. Ordinary people. People with bills to pay, work to do, mouths to feed. People like you.

  • Girl staring down policeman
    A demonstrator looks at a riot policeman during a protest marking the country's 1973 military coup in Santiago, 11 September 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Vera)

None of these people were superhuman. They couldn’t have predicted that speaking out for what they believed in would move mountains. But they had one thing in common, they all realised the power of their voices. One person puts out the call – for more, for better, for progress – and other people respond, adding their voices to the collective chorus. 

– Anyone else?

– Me too.

A single voice, at the right pitch, is powerful enough to shatter glass. Millions of voices, raised together, can cause an avalanche.

Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking

Audre Lorde (African American writer and activist)

The power of our voices

We are at a critical juncture for freedom of expression worldwide. 
Democracies are failing, human rights are being eroded, and only 1 in 7 people live in countries where they can seek, receive, or share information freely and safely.  

Our new strategy, The Power of Our Voices, sets out how ARTICLE 19 will rise to meet the challenges we face over the next 4 years. We will harness the experience, knowledge, passion, and tenacity of the free expression movement to build a world where everyone – everywhere – can realise the power of their voices. And we will amplify those voices until they are too loud to be ignored – here’s how. 

We will define a new digital era for freedom of expression

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei holding a phone to take a selfie

The internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word

Ai Weiwei (Chinese artist)

There is mounting evidence of Big Tech, governments, and other powers using digital technology against us.

But the digital sphere also holds huge potential to strengthen free expression, and youth-led movements have shown how technology can be used to change the status quo. 

ARTICLE 19 pioneered the consideration of human rights in the infrastructure of the internet. Our digital work includes people who are often left out of tech discussions, like women, LGBTQI+ people, and activists from the Global South.

With these partners, we will work to define a new internet era – one that respects our freedom of expression and reflects the diversity of human experience.

We will:

  • counter disinformation and improve media literacy 
  • challenge mass surveillance and demand a ban on biometrics
  • strengthen legislation to keep our data private from governments and Big Tech 

We will protect, empower, and connect silenced voices and dissent

There’s really no such thing as the ‘ voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.

– Arundhati Roy (Indian writer)

Progress is often instigated by the people who bear the brunt of government and corporate repression. When they bravely speak out to expose injustice and demand racial, gender, or economic equality, they make things better for all of us. They deserve our solidarity, protection, and support. 

ARTICLE 19 will amplify the voices of those who are the most vulnerable and systemically discriminated against.

We will work with:

  • communities at risk: human rights defenders, activists, and political dissidents, women, indigenous and racialised people, migrants, religious and ethnic minorities, and LGBTQI+ communities and diaspora
  • infomediaries: journalists, social communicators, whistleblowers, media workers, and independent and community media outlets – particularly those reporting on corruption, human rights, and the environment
  • civil society, community networks, and social movements: particularly youth, women, minority groups, and those fighting corruption and defending the environment – especially in rural and remote areas

We will advance law and policy to strengthen and protect expression

When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.

– Malala Yousafzai (Pakistani activist)

ARTICLE 19 is a thought leader in developing cutting-edge legal analysis, policies, and standards to protect freedom of expression around the world. 

Wherever decisions affecting people’s lives are made – whether at the international, regional, or national level – we will advocate to make sure their voices are heard.

We will develop policies on new areas impacting freedom of expression, including:

  • infrastructure;
  • pluralism and diversity online;
  • state propaganda; and
  • disinformation. 

And we will ramp up our empirical research, building the evidence base to shape international standards and tailor national solutions. 

The power of YOUR voice

I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (Argentine writer and guerrilla leader)

Social change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long road, and it’s often strewn with obstacles. Before we even open our mouths, we are told there’s no point. When we take the mic or megaphone, we are told to shut up. And when we win, we are told that change would’ve happened anyway, that it was a benevolent gift – not the result of our collective demands.

These silencing tactics are nothing new. They’ve been used throughout history to make us doubt the power of our voices. 

But our progressive predecessors spoke their truths anyway. And by doing so, they sowed the seeds that would blossom into Extinction Rebellion, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and countless other contemporary social movements, none of which emerged from barren ground. We are standing on the shoulders of giants – just as future generations will stand on ours. Let’s do them proud. Our future depends on the actions of all of us.
Now is the time to raise your voice.

The power of collective voices

These stories show how the world really does change when we raise our voices together.