On October 14, 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, presented her report on disinformation and freedom of opinion and expression during armed conflict to the Third Committee, 20th plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
In the report, she examines the challenges that information manipulation poses to freedom of opinion and expression during armed conflict. She notes in the report that the information environment in the digital age has become a dangerous theatre of war in which State and non-State actors, enabled by digital technology and social media, weaponize information to sow confusion, feed hate, incite violence and prolong conflict.
Emphasizing the vital importance of the right to information as a “survival right” on which people’s lives, health and safety depend, the Special Rapporteur recommends that human rights standards be reinforced alongside international humanitarian law during armed conflicts. She urges States to reaffirm their commitment to upholding freedom of opinion and expression and ensuring that action to counter disinformation, propaganda and incitement is well grounded in human rights.
She recommends that social media companies align their policies and practices with human rights standards and apply them consistently across the world. She concludes by reiterating the need to build social resilience against disinformation and promote multi-stakeholder approaches that engage civil society as well as States, companies and international organizations.
Again, on October 19, she presented the report at the 77th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in New York, the United States. At the session, states discussed the findings of the report including measures states should take to facilitate the free flow of information and combat disinformation during times of armed conflict, and how countries can ensure media freedom and the safety of journalists.
To download and read the full report, please click Report on Disinformation and Freedom of Opinion and Expression During Armed Conflict.