The International Conference on “Addressing the Risks to Freedom of Opinion, Expression and Access to Information”, which starts in Doha tomorrow, will focus on several important issues, including violations of freedom of opinion and expression, harassment of journalists and hate speech.
The two-day conference, organised by the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) in collaboration with the International Federation for the Protection of Journalists and the International Institute of Journalism, aims to support and promote freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, access to and exchange of information as well as traditional and modern challenges and problems of international law.
The conference will be attended by 200 participants, as well as international and regional non-governmental organisations in the field of human rights, media institutions, researchers, policy experts, research centres, treaty body experts, a group of special rapporteurs of the UN system, regional systems, representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Unesco, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), World and National Associations of Journalists and a number of global personalities.
Participants will discuss ways to activate the safeguards of international human rights law, instruments and procedures relating to freedom of opinion and expression, access to information and address the problems and challenges related to international human rights law posed by modern communications technology.
The conference also aims to examine how journalists can be protected and supported, and how to promote pluralistic, independent and free media, as well as to protect journalists in conflict areas, end impunity for crimes against them, and raise awareness of ethical challenges, and ways foster positive ethics of the profession.
At the opening session of the conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, speeches will be delivered by the National Human Rights Committee, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Federation of Journalists, the International Institute of Journalists and the European Broadcasting Union, while Unesco will chair one of the sessions.
The OSCE will participate for the first time by presenting a working paper.
The conference features the strongest national and international trade unions participation, such as the presidents of trade unions in Britain, France and Russia, as well as trade unions in the United States, China and others, as well as human rights organisations such as Article 19 and Human Rights Watch.
It will also feature several sessions and workshops, with more than 30 working papers to be presented.
The recommendations will be submitted to the Qatari government, the UN Secretary-General, the president of the UN General Assembly, the president of the UN Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as regional organisations such as the European Union and the European Parliament.
The conference is significant as the freedom of opinion and expression and the consequent freedom of the press and freedom of the media are the cornerstone for the promotion of international peace and security for every society that is free and democratic.
It is also an indispensable condition for achieving the full development of the individual and establishing the principles of transparency and accountability, as a fundamental factor for the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as the fundamental basis for the full enjoyment of a wide range of other human rights, including the right to freedom of assembly and association and the exercise of the right to
participate in public affairs.
It is essential for the advancement of any society to allow the free exchange of
information and opinions.
A society is indispensable to a diverse, free, uncensored and unobstructed media, including free media, with the ability to comment on public issues, to inform public opinion without censorship or restriction.
International and regional human rights mechanisms have made it clear that freedom of opinion and expression are the basis for participation in public affairs, accountability, sustainable development, human development and the exercise of all other rights, while ensuring the realisation of the right to freedom of expression, allowing for lively, multi-faceted debates reflecting public concerns, expressing different views, ensuring respect for areas of debate, stimulating and examining exchange of views, besides developing critical thinking.
On the second and final day of the conference, a working session entitled “Continuing the struggle for global media freedom” will be held, in addition to reviewing the outcomes of the working groups and closing session to declare the recommendations of the conference.