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Regardless of Frontiers

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Regardless of Frontiers

Global Freedom of Expression in a Troubled World

Columbia UP,

15 min read
9 take-aways
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What's inside?

Freedom of expression is at risk, and that’s a global human rights problem.

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  • Comprehensive
  • Analytical
  • Applicable


After World War II, institutions such as the United Nations organized a global template for human rights, including freedom of expression and access to government information. But as Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger and United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard relate, the rise of populist politics and neoliberal economics has brought attacks on freedom of expression and the media. These deeply informed articles will resonate with readers who care about democracy and a free press.


The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined freedom of expression as a human right.

After World War II, the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) identified freedom of expression as a global norm. In its definition, the right to freedom of expression includes the right to search for or receive information, to transmit information to others in any medium, and to do so in any place or country with no thought of national borders. Treaties between nations often codify the right to freedom of expression.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted in the late 1960s, added details to the UDHR, such as the circumstances under which government can constrain the right to freedom of expression. For example, policy makers can limit this right in order to protect national security, public health or individual reputations. The ICCPR, even with flaws, encouraged protecting freedom of expression worldwide.

Freedom of expression is a global issue.

Laws regarding freedom of expression tend to reflect regional jurisdictions. American law, for instance, focuses on its national traditions...

About the Authors

Lee C. Bollinger is the president of Columbia University, where he is also the Seth Low Professor. Agnes Callamard is the director of the University’s Global Freedom of Expression initiative and serves as the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.

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