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The general principles of the United Nations (UN) communication policies are found in the Charter of the United Nations, although the Charter does not explicitly refer to them. They are enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. UDHR was adopted on December 10, 1948, as a ‘resolution’ by the UN General Assembly. It recognizes the classic idea of freedom of expression, with both its necessary limits and, in a positive and concrete manner, certain rights including the possibility of demanding those rights, which constitutes, as it were, the basis or inspiration of national communication laws.
Freedom of expression is set forth in Article 19 of the UDHR: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers. The limitations on free expression are in Article 12, which states “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
The differences between western Europe’s individualistic idea of freedom, based on the idea of the state’s abstention, and the more collective and interventionist approach to human rights of the eastern block led, in December 1966, to the establishment of two international covenants in order to strengthen the UDRH principles: one on civil and political rights (ICCPR), and the other on economic, social, and cultural rights. The latter, called International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) stands in sharp contrast to the ICCPR in that it provides for a more positive and collective framework of human rights to communication. Several specialized UN institutions determine and implement a wide range of international communication policies. Among the most important institutions relating to communication law and policy are the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). WIPO is primarily concerned with intellectual property issues, especially copyright and related rights.
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- United Nations (2014). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At: https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.