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Focus area

Freedom of expression

Intergovernmental organisations have worked to elevate freedom of expression to the status of a universally recognised right: socialising us all to the idea that freedom of expression—including media freedom—is essential to the flourishing of democratic societies that support effective, accountable and inclusive institutions (SDG16), and a basic condition for development. The Commonwealth has played a leading role in this process: loudly and clearly affirming the right of every Commonwealth citizen to freedom of opinion and expression—and, critically, the obligation of every Commonwealth State to protect that right.

The Foundation’s work, over many years, has confirmed that without freedom of opinion and expression, all else is at risk. From the right to food (Charter, Section XI), to the right to participate in government (Charter, Section I), to transparent and accountable governance (Charter, Section VIII): all hinges on the capacity of a society to understand what is going on and be able to speak out. The Foundation’s mandate, to support vibrant and free civil society throughout the Commonwealth, places a special obligation on us to help advance freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression is a core thread running through much of our creative and outreach work. Through our Creative Commonwealth programme, for example, we are working to support artists and storytellers as they realise their right to creative expression and seek to advance that same right for others. Through our People of the Commonwealth programme, we will provide spaces for Commonwealth civil society to speak freely and openly with each other—and engage with government—on critical issues of common concern, including how the Commonwealth can do more to protect freedom of expression.

Commonwealth Charter V

Freedom of expression

We are committed to peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including through a free and responsible media, and to enhancing democratic traditions and strengthening democratic processes.

Sustainable Development Goal 16

Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies and (target 10) ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.

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