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
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
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
Civil Society Partnership for Development Effectiveness
Comité Sénégalais des Droits de l'Homme (CSDH)
Corruption Watch UK
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)
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
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
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
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