Why is Free Expression Important in an Information Society?

 The UK-based "Freedom of Expression Project" posted "Public Interest Principles for the Networked Communications Environment".

The draft document provides useful analysis on the importance of freedom of expression, open standards, interoperability, respect for privacy, and balanced copyright law as key policy goals for a healthy and robust information society.  The project aims to complete an agreed set of principles by December 2008.

Why is freedom of expression important in an information society?  According to the draft principles:

"The key concept underlying the Freedom of Expression Project is that freedom of expression is a foundation human right, essential for the realisation of other human rights and freedoms. These include the rights to free association, participation in government and education. To safeguard freedom of expression and the rights it supports, we need to understand and exercise it in the fullest sense. Importantly, freedom of expression means that the exchange of opinions, ideas and information should be capable of being a public act, not something confined to private discourse.  Freedom of expression therefore rests on the communication platforms that we use for public expression such as newspapers, television and the internet. It requires that these platforms are able to support progressive public discourse or, in other words, the public interest.


In the words of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we need a communications environment that gives people the ability “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Policy principles to help shape a communications environment that operates in the public interest are therefore vital for the realisation of freedom of expression and the rights and freedoms that it supports."