Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and “Fake News”, Disinformation and Propaganda

The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the
Media, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on
Freedom of Expression and Access to Information adopted, in Vienna, on 3 March 2017, a Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and “Fake News”, Disinformation and Propaganda:

Taking note of the growing prevalence of disinformation (sometimes referred to as “false” or “fake news”) and propaganda in legacy and social media, fuelled by both States and non-State actors, and the various harms to which they may be a contributing factor or primary cause;

Expressing concern that disinformation and propaganda are often designed and implemented so as to mislead a population, as well as to interfere with the public’s right to know and the right of individuals to seek and receive, as well as to impart, information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, protected under international legal guarantees of the rights to freedom of expression and to hold opinions;

Emphasising that some forms of disinformation and propaganda may harm individual reputations and privacy, or incite to violence, discrimination or hostility against identifiable groups in society;

Alarmed at instances in which public authorities denigrate, intimidate and threaten the media, including by stating that the media is “the opposition” or is “lying” and has a hidden political agenda, which increases the risk of threats and violence against journalists, undermines public trust and confidence in journalism as a public watchdog, and may mislead the public by blurring the lines between disinformation and media products containing independently verifiable facts;

Stressing that the human right to impart information and ideas is not limited to “correct” statements, that the right also protects information and ideas that may shock, offend and disturb, and that prohibitions on disinformation may violate international human rights standards, while, at the same time, this does not justify the dissemination of knowingly or recklessly false statements by official or State actors;