Why is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights important?


A drawing by French cartoonist t0ad

Adopted and proclaimed on 10 December 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains 30 articles that have been embedded in international treaties, national constitutions and other laws. The declaration is one of the cornerstones of the International Bill of Human Rights, which became law in 1976.

The full declaration sets out the basic rights all people should enjoy and expect from their governments and other governments. Though the declaration is often ignored, it represents the ideal that the world’s government should strive to meet.

Article 18 and Article 19 deal with freedom of thought and freedom of expression most directly, though other articles also reference these fundamental rights.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Subscribe to the Index newsletters” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

Index on Censorship is a nonprofit that defends people’s freedom to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution. We fight censorship around the world.

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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][gravityform id=”20″ title=”false” description=”false” ajax=”false”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”More information about freedom of expression” font_container=”tag:h2|font_size:26|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Why is free speech important? Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It reinforces all other human rights, allowing society to develop and progress. The ability to express our opinion and speak freely is essential to bring about change in society.

Why is access to freedom of expression important? All over the world today, both in developing and developed states, liberal democracies and less free societies, there are groups who struggle to gain full access to freedom of expression for a wide range of reasons including poverty, discrimination and cultural pressures. While attention is often, rightly, focused on the damaging impact discrimination or poverty can have on people’s lives, the impact such problems have on free expression is less rarely addressed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

#IndexDrawtheLine: Religious extremism is one of the greatest challenges facing society


“We want to laugh at the extremists – every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept,” Laurent Léger, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo–a satirical magazine where an extremist attack killed 12 people on Wednesday—told BFM-TV in 2012.  Some weeks ago, a violent extremist attack also killed three people in Sydney. In 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 people in a terrorist attack in Norway. During the late 20th century, the conflict between Catholics and Protestants also claimed the lives of thousands in Northern Ireland. The list of conflicts goes on.

Religious extremism is one of the greatest challenges facing society in the 21st century. Many world conflicts are closely linked to restrictions on religious freedoms. These horrific attacks will continue until there is an understanding of how important it is for people to be free to believe and practice their religion.

Religious freedom is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have the right to change religion or belief. We have the right to pray in private or public. We have the right to teach about our religion, but we can only keep these rights if we do not give in to religious discrimination, such as Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism or even discrimination against atheists.

On the #IndexDrawtheLine Twitter feed, some readers emphasised the importance of institutions in countering religious extremism. @KayRobinson thinks that institutions should adopt a secular law but “hold an authentic respect for religious values.” Organisations, such as governments, have to effectively counter extremism but society also has a responsibility. We have to support the values of religious freedom, and to ensure people expressing a range of differing views and values are not silenced.

This article was published on 12 January 2015 at indexoncensorship.org