Freedom of Expression

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

Both the American and European Conventions have a specific provision regarding the right to freedom of expression, delineated in Articles 13 and 10, respectively. However, the form in which the articles are drafted differs greatly: while Article 13 of the American Convention contains a specific list of exceptions to the general principle established in the first paragraph of the Article, its counterpart in the European Convention is formulated in very general terms. Also, the articles have a very different reach, evident in the establishment in Article 13 of the American Convention of a virtually complete ban on prior censorship, absent in Article 10 of the European document. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has compared Article 10 of the European Convention with Article 13 of the American Convention and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, concluding that "A comparison of Article 13 with the relevant provisions of the European Convention (Article 10) and the Covenant (Article 19) indicates clearly that the guarantees contained in the American Convention regarding freedom of expression were designed to be more generous and to reduce to a bare minimum restrictions impeding the free circulation of ideas".(1)

Article 10 - Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

(1) Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Compulsory Members hip in an Association Prescribed by Law for the Practice of Journalism (Articles 13 and 29 American Convention on Human Rights), Advisory Opinion OC-5/85, Series A No. 5, Judgment of November 13, 1995 , para. 50.