Urging the UN to emphasize free expression in the Sustainable Development Goals

Monday, September 29, 2014
His Excellency Ban Ki-moon Secretary General of the United Nations United Nations Headquarters New York, NY 10017 Dear Mr. Secretary General, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE adds its voice to a coalition of civil society organisations committed to sustainable development urging you to highlight the importance of the right to information, free media, and the protection of civil society organisations' ability to organise and engage in your upcoming stocktaking report on the Sustainable Development Goals to the General Assembly. We welcome your recent announcement on the creation of an Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. However, as experts and practitioners in the field, we feel strongly that the data revolution cannot succeed without substantial improvement in the openness of governments to their people and an improved and enabling environment for civic space that allow individuals, civil society and communities to know, speak, engage and operate freely. To achieve this, the rights to freedom of information, free media, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly must be fully recognised and enabled. The importance of these rights has been recognised in the Millennium Declaration, the Rio+ 20 declaration and numerous UN papers. These rights are also highlighted in the report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons and in the recommendations of the Open Working Group, both of which recommended that access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms be included as targets. However, even with the crucial role these rights play in development, they are largely unincorporated in currently agreed development mechanisms and were conspicuous by their absence in the Millennium Development Goals. As you acknowledged in your "Freedom Lecture" speech last year at the University of Leiden, civil society is under increasing pressure: journalists and human rights defenders are imprisoned; internet and media outlets are shut down; and peaceful protests are banned. These issues need to be addressed as part of the SDGs or they will continue to hinder development progress and the data revolution will be restricted to the status quo of limited and unreliable information by the few, for the few, instead of access to information by everyone, for everyone, and the ability to act upon it. Mr. Secretary General, today is globally recognised as "Right to Know Day". Governments and civil society organisations around the world will celebrate the progress made so far to ensure everyone is empowered to have greater control over their lives by better knowing how governments operate. Please take the time today to ensure these rights are not forgotten in the SDGs. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President Africa Freedom of Information Centre Albanian Media Institute ARTICLE 19 Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression Association of Caribbean Media Workers Bahrain Center for Human Rights Cambodian Center for Human Rights Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala - CERIGUA Comité por la Libre Expresión - C-Libre Foro de Periodismo Argentino Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP Freedom Forum Freedom House Fundamedios - Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study Hong Kong Journalists Association Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions International Publishers Association Journaliste en danger Maharat Foundation Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Media Institute of Southern Africa Media Watch Metamorphosis, Foundation for Internet and Society National Union of Somali Journalists Pacific Islands News Association Pakistan Press Foundation Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA PEN American Center Public Association "Journalists" Reporters Without Borders Southeast Asian Press Alliance The Belarusian Association of Journalists West African Journalists Association World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC Access Info Europe Accun pour la Culture Numérique Action 2015 National team-Sri Lanka Active Remedy Ltd Adevarul (The Truth) Amnesty International Arlan Asociación Gestión Salud Población Association Al Bawsala Association I Watch - Tunisia Association Nigérienne des Femmes Diplômées Association of Private Nature Reserves of Minas Gerais State Association TANSA Association Tunisienne de Soutien Aux Minorités (ATSM) Association Tunisienne des Contrôleurs Publics ( ATCP) Association Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l'Etat Civique Associazione Museo Energia BBC Media Action CAFSO-WRAG for Development Campaign2015+ International Caribbean Policy Development Centre CEEweb for Biodiversity Centre for Human Rights and Climate Change Research Centre for Law and Democracy Centre for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa (CSDEA) CF Sange Research Center CIDAC Civil Society Partnership for Development Effectiveness COLLECTIF 24 Comité Sénégalais des Droits de l'Homme (CSDH) Corruption Watch UK EDW ENERGIA Federation of SUNFO Global Youth Forum FEMNET - The African Women's Development and Communication Network Finnish NGDO platform to the EU Fondation Mohamed Belmufti Pour La Justice et Les Libertés GCAP Sri Lanka Groupe AGORA pour les Droits de l'enfant et la paix (GRA-REDP) IMove 2015 Campaign Sri Lanka Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey Institut panafricain pour la Citoyenneté, les Consommateurs et le Développement (CICODEV) Institute for Economic Research on Innovation Instituto de Estudos de Direito e Cidadania Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Medio Ambiente Instituto o Direito por um Planeta Verde International Federation of Journalists, Asia Pacific International Publishers Association Interregional Union of Life Help for Mentally Handicapped Persons "Sail of Hope" Kikandwa Environmental Association La Ligue Tunisienne des droits de l'Homme (LTDH) Laboratório de Educação e Política Ambiental - OCA USP Le Labo Démocratique Ligue Africaine des blogueurs et activistes pour la démocratie Ligue Sénégalaise des Droits de l'Homme (LSDH) MediaLink Mujer y Sociedad Mujeres Mundi NGO Federation of Nepal Observatoire Tunisien de l'Indépendance de la Magistrature Organisation nationale des droits l'homme (ONDH) Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum PraveenLata Sansthan PRESSAFRIK Pro Media Publish What You Fund Ramfa "Rehomfa" Welfare Org Rede Latinoamericana do Ministério Público Ambiental Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO) Request Initiative Réseau des Organisations Féminines d'Afrique Francophone (ROFAF) Restless Development Right to Information Coalition Ghana RightsWay International Section Sénégalaise de la Société Internationale pour les Droits Humains (SIDH) Southern Minas Gerais Institute for Nature Studies and Conservation Southwest Freedom of Information Act Network Sri Lanka United Nations Friendship Organization Stichting Bakens Verzet (NGO Another Way) Sunlight Foundation Terra-1530 The Climate Reality Project Canada The Finnish NGO Platform KEPA The Second Chance foundation The Tobacco Free Association of Zambia The Zambia Heart and Stroke Foundation Tunisian Association for the Advancement of Science, Technology and Innovation Union des Radios Associatives et Communautaires (URAC), Senegal Union des Tunisiens Indépendants pour la Liberté (UTIL) Unión Nacional de Instituciones para el Trabajo de Acción Social-UNITAS Voice Whistleblower-Network Germany Zo Indigenous Forum Cc: Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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