The Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a new strategy this week, with an effort to promote freedom of expression. Representatives of civil society, academia and others have provided input.
– Freedom of expression is the foundation on which all other democratic freedoms rest. Freedom of expression must be safeguarded and promoted tirelessly, every day and in every single country. We want everyone to be able to express their opinions openly, and be able to receive and share information freely, said Mr Brende.
As part of Norway's foreign and development policy, the Government will step up its efforts to support independent media, provide protection for people who express their opinions publicly, and improve public access to information. These are three cornerstones of the effort to ensure real participation and influence on decision-making processes.
– Access to information is a new focus area for Norway's international efforts. Access to information is vital if people are to be able to make informed decisions about their own lives, and to make it possible for them to understand and exercise their rights, said the Foreign Minister.
New technology and freedom of expression
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will promote openness, a free flow of information and access to the internet, and will initiate further steps to develop international norms on the right of access to information. Active efforts are needed to ensure that freedom of expression is safeguarded as new forms of communication and new technology platforms are developed.
A wide range of media channels is needed to ensure that people have access to a variety of sources of information. They can shine a critical spotlight on the exercise of power and authority and promote openness and accountability. The Ministry will therefore support training for journalists, other media staff and heads of media organisations.
Attacks on journalists
There are far too many cases of harassment, intimidation and attacks on journalists, human rights defenders and other people who speak out in public. Many such attacks are never investigated and there are generally no consequences for the perpetrators.
– More than nine of ten murders of journalists in the past ten years have gone unpunished. Impunity for perpetrators is the greatest obstacle to ensuring freedom of expression without fear of reprisal. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will support projects to provide legal and practical assistance to people who are at risk because they speak out, and projects to build up fair and effective legal systems, said Mr Brende.
The new strategy is part of Norway's follow-up of the 2014 white paper Opportunities for All: Human Rights in Norway's Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation.