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Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression

Purpose of the mandate

Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of democracy, which allows individuals and groups to enjoy several other human rights and freedoms. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was created by the Human Rights Council to protect and promote freedom of opinion and expression, offline and online, in light of international human rights law and standards.

About the mandate

In 1993, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  
After replacing the Commission on Human Rights, the Human Rights Council decided to extend the mandate for another three years in March 2008 (resolution 7/36). The mandate was renewed again for an additional three years in March 2011 (HRC resolution 16/4), March 2014 (resolution 25/2), March 2017(resolution 34/18) and again in March 2020 (resolution 43/4).

Learn more about the mandate.

Current mandate holder

Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. Irene Khan was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression in August 2020 and is the first woman to hold this mandate. An internationally recognized advocate for human rights, gender equality and social justice, she was Secretary-General of Amnesty International from 2001 to 2009 and Director-General of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) from 2010 to 2019. Ms. Khan is affiliated with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and has been Consulting Editor of the Daily Star, Bangladesh’s largest English newspaper. Read Ms. Khan’s full biography.

Latest thematic reports

Gender justice and freedom of expression: In this report, the Special Rapporteur finds that despite the impressive gains made by women, gender equality in freedom of expression remains a distant goal. Adopting a gender lens, she examines the challenges that women face, offline and online, and analyses the relevant legal standards and the responsibilities of States and companies. View report page | View document: A/76/258

Disinformation and freedom of expression: In this report, the Special Rapporteur examines the threats posed by disinformation to human rights, democratic institutions and development processes. She calls for multidimensional and multistakeholder responses that are well grounded in the international human rights framework and urges companies to review their business model and States to recalibrate their responses to disinformation, enhancing the role of free, independent and diverse media. View report page| View document: A/HRC/47/25

Academic freedom: In this report, the Special Rapporteur highlights that restrictions on academic freedom limit the sharing of information and knowledge, thus the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds. View report page | View document: A/75/261

Disease pandemics: In this report, submitted at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2020, the Special Rapporteur registers alarm that some efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic may be failing to meet the standards of legality, necessity and proportionality, and highlights five areas of concern, showing that access to information, independent media and other free expression rights are critical to meeting the challenges of pandemic. View report page | View document A/HRC/44/49

Online hate speech: In this report, submitted at the 74th session of the General Assembly in September 2019, the Special Rapporteur explains how international human rights law standards provide a framework for Governments considering regulatory options and companies determining how to respect human rights online. View report page | View document A/74/486

Surveillance and human rights: This report, submitted at the 41st session of the Human Rights Council in June-July 2019, examines the problem of targeted surveillance and the regulation of the public-private collaboration in the sale, transfer, use and after-sales support of surveillance technologies. View report page | View document A/HRC/41/35

Latest country reports

Mission to Ethiopia (2-9 December 2019)
View document A/HRC/44/49/Add.1

Follow up report (2019) to country visits in Japan (2016), Turkey (2016), Honduras (2012), Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (2011) and Côte d’Ivoire (2004)
View report page | View document A/HRC/41/35/ADD.2


Latest news


More press releases and statements...

Archived news
(over 3 years old)

Calls for input

Feature stories



Activities

2021 Joint Declaration on 'Politicians and Public Officials and Freedom of Expression'
العربية | English | Français | Español

Press Release related to the Joint Declaration, 20 October 2021

Former mandate holders

Mr. David Kaye (United States of America)
August 2014 - July 2020

Mr. Frank William La Rue (Guatemala)
August 2008 - July 2014

Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo (Kenya)
August 2002 - July 2008

Mr. Abid Hussain (India)
April 1993 - July 2002


Special Procedures
​Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and opinion
​Recent thematic reports
​Contact information

Ms. Irene Khan
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneve 10, Switzerland

Fax: +41 22 917 9006
Email: OHCHR-freedex@un.org

External links