Adoption of EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression 12 May 2014

Brussels, 13 May 2014

The Foreign Affairs Council of 12 May adopted the text of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, pursuant to the relevant task under the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. 

These guidelines aim at providing operational tools for action addressed to the EU Headquarters but most importantly EU delegations and Member State Embassies worldwide. 

These Guidelines contain the following important elements: 

• A comprehensive set of definitions and different aspects of the freedom of expression, according to international human rights law.

• A breakdown of priority areas of action for the EU, including protection but also promotion of this fundamental right, encompassing all areas of external policy.

• A full list of tools available, in order to permit the pursuit of the EU priorities in the field of freedom of expression. 

• An indicative list of examples that may violate or undermine the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression (Annex I), as well as a nonexhaustive list of international norms, standards, principles and resources, that the EU may invoke or use in contacts with third countries.

Officials of EU institutions and EU MS are encouraged to take into account the guidelines with various tools and actions; HR Country strategies, EU HoMs reports, demarches and public statements, individual cases, court hearings and prison visits, political dialogues, international mechanisms and supporting efforts by civil society. 

The text has been intensely consulted with the competent Commission services, all relevant civil society organisations and other critical stakeholders. The guidelines were also been presented to the European Parliament (DROI Subcommittee) on 20 March.