There are many countries in the world where people are punished for freely speaking their mind. These might be journalists, activists, politicians or even normal citizens protesting or letting their opinions be known. In many regions of the globe, these individuals are intimidates and often punished, physically and psychologically, for having said or written something that displeased somebody else with the power to inflict such punishment. While often these are governments which use the State apparatus to shut down the free voices in the territory they govern, criminal organisations can often be equally guilty of this behaviour .
There are many known cases of such type of oppression in countries like Egypt, Syria and China but also localised regions like Kashmir and part of Sudan. Moreover we should not think that the formal institution of democracy is any real protection or deters violence again free voices, for example in Mexico the drugs cartels kill journalists with impunity and in Turkey, a formal democracy, the government ordered to put journalists in jail with vague charges of sedition and terrorism which never go come to a trial. The Committee to Protect Journalists has shown that more than 1.200 journalists have been killed since 1992 simply for doing their job and 259 have been imprisoned only in 2016 for the same reason.
The violent oppression of individuals because they spoke their mind is an unacceptable violation of human rights. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. In the coming weeks the WSF will campaign to find solutions to what can be done to stop this violence worldwide.
We believe the EU could really make a difference: besides its economic and political power, it is an institution founded upon the value of human rights, including free speech unhindered by the fear of repercussions. What actions can it take to make sure this is respected everywhere in the world? What can be done in a practical and effective way to achieve real results?
Keep tuned to learn more and you can join our event on the 23 November to listen to the voices of experts on the topic – The Oppression of Free Voices – How can the EU Help to Protect Free Speech in the World?