Autour du droit à communiquer

En anglais uniquement
Position de la campagne CRIS

Dans le cadre de la préparation du sommet mondial de la société de l’information, une controverse s’est élevée autour du terme de "droit à communiquer". Vous trouverez ci-dessous un mail de la campagne CRIS - communication right in the information society - qui tente de calrifier sa postion sur la question.

CRIS Campaign and The Right to Communicate : A Brief Response to Article 19.

In a short analytical note and a press release of February 4th 2003, the advocacy organisation Article 19 levelled some strong criticisms at what it described as Cees Hamelink’s draft "Declaration on the Right to Communicate". ( Article 19 subsequently released its own statement on the Right to Communicate. (www.article ) in which the draft was again singled out for criticism. Article 19 has been committed for many years to a global campaign for freedom of expression, so its critical comments deserve to be taken seriously. This is a brief response from the CRIS Campaign that just puts the matter in context, and clarifies a few important issues. It is submitted in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration between everyone devoted to the cause of the protection of human rights, that will be essential if we are to make progress together.

First, the draft Declaration distributed on the CRIS Members list - destined eventually to be considered for adoption by CRIS - was at that point intended for internal purposes only. It was a preliminary paper still needing much thought, and indeed many CRIS members responded to the text with useful proposals for change and improvement. A few warned (as did Article 19 later) that several formulations in the draft could be abused in a manner that could even threaten human rights. One of the essential questions that came up in the email correspondence between CRIS members and the drafting group was : Should we strive towards the recognition of a legal right to communicate as an addition to the existing body of international law, or are there other less formal ways to draw international attention to the fact that current human rights provisions do not encompass "communication" ?. In the discussion some people raised the problem that expanding the human rights regime with a new right might endanger existing provisions.

There are different positions in this important debate. International law is a living process, still growing. The catalogue of human rights has expanded considerably over past years to include new rights and freedoms, without at the same time endangering the basic standards as formulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). And, indeed, there is no reason why adding the right to communicate would in itself threaten the existing framework. Yet to be avoided at all costs is any risk of ’cracking open’ the articles of the UDHR leaving them open to amendment, since the international community today would certainly not adopt as far-sighted a document as the 1948-UDHR. Those drafting the CRIS Declaration never had this in mind and never proposed it.

We wanted to explore in what ways the notion of communication could be taken under the protection of the human rights regime. This exploration is part of a discussion that had begun in 1969 with Jean D’Arcy’s famous article on the right to communicate. Jean d’Arcy introduced the right to communicate by saying "the time will come when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will have to encompass a more extensive right than man’s right to information...This is the right of men to communicate". This new approach was motivated by the observation that the provisions in existing human rights law (such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) were inadequate to deal with communication as interactive, two-way traffic and as a process of dialogue.

In this spirit, the proposed draft did not aim to substitute any human rights already recognized by the international community (such as freedom of information rights, cultural rights or the right to development). It invited readers to think along in the process of strengthening the existing provisions and expanding them with the right to communicate.

This is a very difficult endeavour, particularly since the drafters wanted to put the right to communicate within the overall framework of existing human rights law, encompassing much more than the right to freedom of expression as articulated in Article 19 of the UDHR. This framework contains many provisions for the protection of human dignity, implying limits to the freedom of expression (such as the right to privacy or the right to the presumption of innocence). If one accepts the indivisibility of human rights then conflicts between various rights need to be accommodated.

Moreover, communication processes belong to a much broader domain than that covered by right to freedom of information. The right to communicate addresses the core of the democratic process as well as the essence of most social and personal relations. It goes far beyond arrangements between citizens and states, and cannot avoid the controversy regarding the matter of individual responsibilities under international law. Since the International Military Tribunal at Neurenberg these responsibilities have been established very clearly, and this raises the question of their implications for institutions such as the mass media.

Members of CRIS continue to explore these issues and dilemmas with a view to raising awareness and intervening constructively in international debates.

We are very pleased that Article 19’s own statement proposes the right to communicate as an umbrella term encompassing related rights also mentioned in the CRIS draft, like cultural rights and participation rights. The statement is particularly welcomed in the context of the preparations of the WSIS, where the issues raised by the very concept of the right to communicate are - or should be - at the heart of the debate. CRIS very much welcomes Article 19 as a partner in the search for an adequate positioning of the right to communicate vis-à-vis existing human rights provisions.

On behalf of the CRIS Declaration Drafting Group Cees J. Hamelink , Geneva February 24, 2003.

Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS) For more information see

Crisinfo mailing list Send contributions to CRIS Info archives are at : This list is provided courtesy of Comunica -

Posté le 6 mai 2003

©© Vecam, article sous licence creative common