Freedom of Expression vs Right to have Correct Information

Shaista Tabassum 

Professor of international Relations 

Dean faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 

University of Karachi, Pakistan

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right as given by Art 19 of the UDHR. The basic gain of this freedom is to increase knowledge and create understanding by dialogue on any issue among the people in any society. For any democratic culture the freedom of expression is the essential and primary stepping stone for democratic values to grow. 

In Pakistan, public faced suspension of social media when the government in the end of December2023 has gradually limited the use of social media platforms. Initially by limited access and later on slowing down the X (formerly Twitter) Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Needless to mention that Pakistan is among the top most subscriber of Facebook in the World. It was reported that due to the underwater cable faults the access to internet was slowed down, however, later on the blocking was unofficially accepted on grounds that  it was due to the presence of blasphemous content or religious immorality on the social media [atforms. The blocking was primarily caused due to reports of the misuses of social media against the government, judiciary and the military establishment. The material used by the political opponents to spread disinformation based on propaganda and twisted facts using AI technology, thus creating chaos, anti-state and anti-military establishment propaganda. In societies like Pakistan where the literacy rate is below 60% there are high chances of public being easily influenced by the disinformation. Growing concerns were expressed by the religious community on the available online content and literature as misinterpretation of Islamic laws and practices equally challenging the very fabric of the society. Pakistani society is a conservative internally and is extremely sensitive on religious sectarian lines. The material on sensitive issues linked to blasphemy and pornographic material is popular and has wide market especially among the illiterate and rural young people. 

The freedom of expression is the basic human right of an individual, if it is denied, restrained or limited he or she cannot be consider as free. Every individual has complete freedom of thinking expression and writing. Any restriction is the violation of the principles of international Human rights laws.  The debate on freedom of expression becomes more complex when the use of such rights violates or caused damage to the rights of others. Thus it is agreed by international conventions that the freedom of expression is not an unrestricted right it must be balanced by the duties or responsibilities abide by the state the media and the individuals alike.  The 1950 European convention on HR very clearly agreed that this right may be limited. The primary reason being the protection of other’s rights. Article 10 of the convention is the crux of this debate, which says’

‘’everyone has the right to freedom of expression” but that this freedom may by subject to restrictions for a variety of reasons, including to protect the rights of others: The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

This leads to yet to an extended discussion on the concept of Human rights. At the tip of the ice burg, every individual has the right to have knowledge and information but which is authentic, correct and genuine knowledge based on truth and facts not fictions or disinformation. Plato believed that knowledge is achievable but for him true knowledge must be trustworthy and also of the real. Any state of mind which cannot defend this claims cannot be the true knowledge.

While looking it from this angle it appears that the laws introduced by any government in such situation where the flood of information/disinformation is influencing the minds of the people the freedom of expression and the right of genuine information coincide in the state policy. The government as the custodian of the people security in every respect preferred that the public must be given right information. Now it is up to the masses to decide which right they prefer to have. Correct information or freedom of expression.

Technology and Human Rights: Balancing Privacy and Security in the Digital Era                                                                               

Anju Gupta

                                                                                  Head Department of Political Science

                                                                                  JECRC University, JAIPUR(India.

The rapid advancement of technology has brought about a paradigm shift in growing world, where technology is advancing with each passing minute; the convergence of technology and human rights has become a prominent and pressing concern. Technology is bringing countless new innovations and advantages for us in terms of communication, transportation, and security, but at the same time it has presented us with significant challenges concerning the protection of individual privacy and human rights violations. The challenge is to strike a balance between privacy and security in the digital era.

  Innovation comes with its own set of concerns. Encryption can be used to protect sensitive data, while anonymization techniques can be used to protect personal information. Additionally, technology can be used to monitor and track individuals, which can help to deter crime and ensure public safety.. This is where the dilemma arises when technology is used for data breaches to expose personal information to unauthorized individuals, while surveillance technologies can be used to track people’s movements and activities. Additionally, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) can raise concerns about bias and discrimination.

The whole conversation about technology and human rights revolves around the fundamental issue of privacy. We all have the right to privacy, to keep our personal information, communication, and daily activities confidential. But the prominent question is whether Is it possible in this digital era where our online behavior is constantly under scrutiny or surveillance? Technologies like facial recognition, fingerprint detection, and AI-driven surveillance systems are brought forward to enhance the security system; however, this raises concerns about the potential misuse of this data for abuse, financial identity theft, and discrimination.

 The challenge is to strike a balance between privacy and security in the digital era requires a multifaceted approach that involves:

Transparency and Accountability: Organizations collecting data must be transparent and accountable. Accountability systems are necessary to guarantee to use data in a responsible and moral manner.

 Ethical Technology Development:  Developers and engineers must ensure that ethics are their first priority. It is crucial to make sure that surveillance and AI systems are created with privacy protections in mind. 

Strong Legal framework: The government should introduce data protection laws globally to maintain the privacy and security of personal data. These gatekeepers will ensure that citizens’ data is morally and ethically used by the organization.

Public Awareness: Individuals need to be vigilant of the risks and benefits of using technology. They also need to be educated about how to protect their privacy and security online.

The impact of digital technology on human rights is complex and multifaceted. It is important to be aware of both the positive and negative impacts of digital technology in order to make informed decisions about its use.  There is a need to strike a balance between privacy and technology.  The digital age is not just to adapt to new technology but also to thrive while upholding the fundamental human rights values that form the basis of our democratic society. The way forward in this dynamic and linked world is obvious: we must choose a road that upholds people’s rights, protects their privacy, and assures their security. It’s a difficult road, but one that is necessary to uphold the values of democracy, freedom, and dignity that make the nations of the world what they are. The digital era is not necessarily a threat to human rights; rather, it can be a stimulus for peaceful coexistence between technology and mankind.

Freedom of Speech vs Protection of Religious Feelings – the Rabczewska’s Case Before the ECHR

Tomasz Litwin

Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow, Poland

In 2012, Dorota Rabczewska (a Polish female singer and celebrity) was fined PLN 5,000 (approximately €1,165) for publicly expressing the opinion that the Bible was written by someone under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The court judgement was based on the article 196 of Polish Penal Code: 

“Anyone found guilty of offending religious feelings through public calumny of an object or place of worship is liable to a fine, restriction of liberty or a maximum two-year prison sentence.”

The Polish Constitutional Tribunal in 2015 considered constitutional complaint submitted by Rabczewska and reviewed this rule. The Tribunal found it to be constitutional (Litwin, 2023).

The European Court of Human Rights judgements concerning freedom of speech and protection of religious feelings are diverse. In some cases the Court considered freedom of speech as more important: Giniewski v. France (2006), Klein v. Slovakia (2006), Sekmadienis Ltd. v. Lithuania (2018). In others it gave the edge to protection of religious feelings: Otto-Preminger-Institut v. Austria (1994), Wingrove v. the United Kingdom (1996), İ.A. v. Turkey (2005), E.S. v. Austria (2018) – (Litwin, 2023).  

On September 15, 2022, the ECHR delivered the judgement in case Rabczewska v. Poland and this is the last case up to date when the Court considered the conflict of freedom of speech and protection of religious feelings. The Court, like in similar previous cases, emphasised that both freedom of expression and freedom of religion are fundamental for democratic society. The freedom of expression concerns also statements that offend, shock or disturb. However, this freedom also carries the duties and responsibilities. In case of religion – to avoid the statements gratuitously offensive to others and profane. The state is also allowed to introduce measures that will ensure peaceful coexistence of the members of society, no matter of their religious and worldview convictions. However, the adherents of the particular religion should be prepared for a criticism of their beliefs, even a hostile one. In Rabczewska’s case, the Court declared that her statement “did not amount to an improper or abusive attack on an object of religious veneration, likely to incite religious intolerance or violating the spirit of tolerance”. Therefore, the Court evaluated the actions of Polish authorities as the violation of art. 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. 

This judgement cannot be regarded as breakthrough ruling. It rather summarises the previous case-law when freedom of speech collides with the protection of religious feelings. There is no general rule to solve such conflict of two values, both protected by the Convention. In every case the Court has to balance both values and carefully analyse the substance of the controversial statement. The offensive character of the statement is not enough to limit the freedom of speech. Such limitation should be considered if the statement could be regarded as broadly understood hate speech towards the adherents of the particular religion or as endangering the peaceful coexistence of religious and non-religious groups and individuals in the particular state. 

Such position of the Court should be supported, however some of its conclusions need further consideration. In general, the freedom of speech guarantees the right to criticise the particular religion or the religion in general, understood as the set of philosophical principles of how to live inspired by some conception of deity. Only the statements that endanger the particular person or group of persons because of their religious beliefs should be penalized, not those that strongly provoke them, potentially even causing riots. The doubts concerning the interpretation of the statement should be considered according to the principle in dubio pro libertate, supporting the freedom of speech. Therefore the potential state protection should concern only adherents of the religion but not its deity, prophets, ministrants, sacred texts or principles. 

Litwin, T. 2023. “The Freedom of Speech and the Protection of Religious Feelings: The Case of Dorota Rabczewska – Comparative Analysis.” In: O. Pérez de la Fuente, A. Tsesis, J. Skrzypczak (eds.). Minorities, Free Speech and the Internet. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd: Chapter 13. 

Rabczewska v. Poland [2023] App. no 8257/13.      

Freedom of expression in the time of War in Ukraine

Jedrzej Skrzypczak

Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland

  1. Introduction

Freedom of expression is guaranteed both in the legal order of the Council of Europe (the European Convention on Human Rights) and the European Union (Article 11 of the Chart of Fundamental Rights of the European Union No 2012 / C 326/02). Still, it should be emphasised that this freedom is not unlimited. However, as it was indicated in p. 2 of Article 10 ECHR, “The exercise of these freedoms since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary for a democratic society, among other in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety /../”.

  • Freedom of speech in times of war

Indeed, the state of war is one of the reasons why Freedom Of Expression may be limited. As US Supreme Court declared in Schenck v. the United States in 1919, “when a nation is at war, many things that might be said in times of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right. Additionally, the US Supreme Court declared that the government could restrict speech more in times of war than in times of peace”. ( additions/article/1597/free-speech-during-wartime)   

As shown in the doctrine, “American history confirms that in times of war, freedom of speech suffers. Unfortunately, the understandable push for security and order has caused excess efforts at branding many who dissent as disloyal”. ( We can indicate many such cases, not only in the history of the USA. 

We can also point to a similar case recently also in the European Union. After Russia attacked Ukraine on 24 February, 2022, the European Union banned Russian broadcasting programmes on the territory of EU member states. As stated in COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) 2022/350 of 1 March, 2022, amending Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 concerning restrictive measures in view of Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine, “the Russian Federation has engaged in a systematic, international campaign of media manipulation and distortion of facts to enhance its strategy of destabilisation of its neighbouring countries and the Union and its Member States. In particular, the propaganda has repeatedly and consistently targeted European political parties, especially during election periods, as well as targeting civil society, asylum seekers, Russian ethnic minorities, gender minorities, and the functioning of democratic institutions in the Union and its Member States. To justify and support its aggression against Ukraine, the Russian Federation has engaged in continuous and concerted propaganda actions targeted at civil society in the Union and neighbouring countries, gravely distorting and manipulating facts. Those propaganda actions have been channelled through a number of media outlets under the permanent direct or indirect control of the leadership of the Russian Federation. Such actions constitute a significant and immediate threat to the Union’s public order and security. Given the gravity of the situation and response to Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine, it is necessary, consistent with the fundamental rights and freedoms recognised in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in particular with the right to freedom of expression and information as identified in Article 11 thereof, to introduce further restrictive measures to urgently suspend the broadcasting activities of such media outlets in the Union, or directed at the Union. /…/ According to Article 2f 1., “It shall be prohibited for operators to broadcast or to enable, facilitate, or otherwise contribute to the broadcast any content by the legal persons, entities or bodies listed in Annex XV (i.e. RT – Russia Today English, RT – Russia Today UK, RT – Russia Today Germany, RT – Russia Today France, RT – Russia Today Spanish, Sputnik), including through transmission or distribution by any means such as cable, satellite, IP-TV, internet service providers, internet video-sharing platforms or applications, whether new or pre-installed”. Due to this regulation, any broadcasting licence or authorisation, transmission, and distribution arrangement with the legal persons, entities, or bodies listed above shall be suspended. 

National media market regulators made similar decisions in some European Union countries. For example, according to the Polish National Broadcasting Council Decision of February and March 2022, it was decided to remove Russian TV channels from the register of cable networks and satellite platforms. Cable operators had to remove some stations from the offer and satellite platforms from set-top boxes. Then Russian stations were removed from Canal+ and Orange’s offer. Pervyj Kanał (Channel One Russia) and Belarus 24 (TV Belarus) have joined the banned stations. (Read more at:; canal-upc)

  • Freedom of speech in Ukraine durin the war

At the beginning of this section, it should be emphasised that according to the world rankings of media freedom, Russia and Ukraine occupy a rather distant place. According to the Press Freedom Index of 2021, Ukraine was ranked 97th out of 180 countries and 106th in 2022. According to the same list, this position is better than Russia’s; in 2021, it was rated 150, and in 2022, 155 out of 180.

In the case of Ukraine, it can be assumed that her position will be even weaker next year. Certainly, a severe justification for such an unfavourable trend is the necessity to deal with the attack by the Russian Federation and the war. Many actions and legal acts were undertaken, de facto introducing war censorship.

It should be reminded here that according to the Decree of the President of Ukraine №152 / 2022 following Article 107 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the decision of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, “On the implementation of a unified information policy under martial law”, of 18 March, 2022 was put into effect. As a result, President of Ukraine V. Zelensky introduced the unified information policy as a priority issue of national security, which is ensured by combining all national television channels, the broadcast content of which consists chiefly of information or information/analysis programmes on a single information platform for strategic communication – round-the-clock news Marathon Single News #UArazom”, “(see more: УКАЗ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА УКРАЇНИ №152/2022Про рішення Ради національної безпеки і оборони України від 18 березня 2022 року “Щодо реалізації єдиної інформаційної політики в умовах воєнного стану”,

Several other worrying trends should be noted. However, not all cases can be justified by the war and the fight against the Russian invaders. They seem to have nothing to do with Russian propaganda and information warfare. The hostilities were only a pretext to eliminate TV broadcasters independent of the authorities from the public space. Examples include the case of Channel 5, “Pramyj”, and “Espresso”. The Ukrainian national regulator announced on 4 April, 2022, that it would prohibit broadcasting these TV channels on the T2 digital network. The sender appealed to the court against these decisions. Mychajło Podolak, the adviser to the head of the President’s Chancellery, shed some light on the reasons for this decision, stating that the channels mentioned above from the so-called Petro Poroshenko’s pools (Channel 5, Priamyj and Espresso) had been excluded from digital broadcasting because they were harmful due to the narcissism of the former Ukrainian president and political opponent of President Zelensky.

Another disturbing case was the attempt to exclude pro-Russian journalists from nationwide Ukrainian TV channels without any fair trial and independent court decisions. Ukrainian journalists and human rights organisations called for dismissing journalists who had previously played with the enemy’s rhetoric and had spread Kremlin propaganda for many years. This list includes journalists such as Vasyl Holovanov, Tigran Martirosyan, Natasha Vlashchenko, Tetiana Honcharova, Nazar Dovhyy, Volodymyr Poluyev, Anna Stepanets, Anastasia Dauhule. They were accused of promoting the Kremlin’s narrative about the alleged US control of Ukraine, “discrimination” of the Russian language, spreading propaganda about a “civil war” in the Donbas, and justifying the Russian occupation of Crimea. Some journalists also called for cleaning the Ukrainian media space from Russian agents. “Now we have the chance to clear out the Ukrainian media space and to set up an institute of reputation to protect Ukraine from repeating the story in the future”.( see “Media Group Ukraine”, i.e., the sender who employs these persons, stated that currently, it had no doubts about the pro-Ukrainian civic stance of the TV hosts mentioned, whom the media community called for excluding from national telethons because of their pro-Russian narratives. (see:

3a. The case of social media. 

The resident of the Lviv region will be tried for posting a video on the social media TikTok featuring the movement of a column of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A defendant (a 28-year-old man),  in April 2022, posted a video on TikTok showing a column of military equipment on the move (the number and type of vehicles). The prosecutors have filed an indictment for the unauthorised distribution of information about the movement of the Armed Forces under martial law (Part 2 of Article 114-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).(see: Reporters have been killed and injured while reporting on the war. RFE/RL’s Vira Hyrych, who died in a Russian missile strike in Kyiv on 28 April,

  • Freedom of media in Russia

In Russia, for quite some time now, the government has taken virtually total control of news and information by introducing extensive censorship, blocking the media, and prosecuting non-compliant journalists, forcing many to emigrate. As mentioned, the country fell five places from 150 in the ranking in 2021 to 155 in 2022 when the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) lowered Russia’s rating for repression of journalists reporting protests in support of the Kremlin’s criticism of Alexei Navalny and the tightening of its media law as “foreign agents”.

In Russia, after the start of the war with Ukraine, military censorship was introduced: at that time, more than 3,000 websites were closed in the country – news publications, social networks, public organisations, trade and IT companies. Access to most websites was restricted at the request of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation. In March 2022, the Office demanded that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram be blocked. Their owner – the Meta company – was recognised as an “extremist”. The list of banned resources also includes many media sites. Some, such as Meduza and Mediazona, were even blocked twice based on various decisions of the General Prosecutor’s Office. (see:

Additionally, in March 2022, Russia passed two laws that criminalise all independent war reports and protests against the war, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison. The law prohibits spreading “fake news” about Russian armed forces, calling for an end to their deployment. On 23 March, the Russian parliament adopted a decree effectively extending the ban on criticising the armed forces to the one condemning any actions taken by the Russian authorities abroad. The amendments expand the provisions on “false information” and “discredit” to government bodies such as the Russian Guard (currently involved in hostilities in Ukraine), embassies, consulates and emergency services. The penalties are similar to those laid down in the original law criminalising “false information” and “discrediting” the Russian armed forces. As a result, disseminating, for example, information in social media that Russia is waging war in Ukraine and not a “special military operation”, as Putin calls it, is punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years.