Request from the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression


To inform the thematic report on challenges to freedom of opinion and expression in times of armed conflict and other disturbances for the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.


The right to freedom of opinion and expression is essential for human dignity and the enjoyment of many other rights, as well as the advancement of peace and development. However, it has come under increasing pressure and restrictions in the digital age, especially in the context of conflict and violence. The Special Rapporteur is launching a multi-year project to examine the challenges to the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the context of conflict and violence, with a view to eventually developing concrete guidelines for States, digital platforms and other stakeholders. The Special Rapporteur recognizes that the threats and challenges are multiple and complex, and considerable research, reflection and stakeholder consultations will be needed to address these issues.

As a first step in the project, the Special Rapporteur plans to produce a scoping report, for submission to the 77th session of the General Assembly, on hate speech, disinformation, misinformation and propaganda that is used to instigate and aggravate situations of violence, instability and conflict. This report will build on the previous report of the Special Rapporteur to the 47th session of the Human Rights Council on Disinformation and Freedom of Expression (A/HRC/47/25).

People are at their most vulnerable in times of rising tensions, instability and conflict, in desperate need of reliable information for their safety and well-being, and yet this is also the time when information and expression are often restricted, distorted or weaponized to cause harm. Hate speech, disinformation, restrictions on reporting, attacks on journalists, closure of media outlets and internet shutdowns or slowdown are common features and contributory factors to the instability, violence and other human rights violations.

Manipulation of information to instigate violence or aggravate conflict exacts a high cost on individuals, especially those who are already discriminated against or marginalized in society, such as women, minorities, refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons. It can have also serious political, social and economic consequences by generating public distrust and hindering efforts to seek peace, reconciliation, reconstruction and development in conflict-affected or post-conflict societies.

Digital technology has added significant new layers of complexity to the risks. While digital platforms and tools help communities and individuals to stay connected, communicate with the outside world and obtain life-saving information and services, they also amplify hate speech and disinformation within and across borders, with serious negative consequences on human rights as well as political stability, democracy processes and social cohesion.

The report to the 77th session of the General Assembly will discuss the impact of the manipulation and restriction of information on people’s lives and rights; the roles and responsibilities of State and non-State actors, including digital companies; and the applicable human rights and international humanitarian law frameworks, including conceptual problems and possible legal and policy gaps.

The report will also seek to identify areas for further research and consultations in the next stage of this project.

Key questions for stakeholders

The Special Rapporteur invites stakeholders, including Member States, international organizations, national human rights institutions, digital technology companies, civil society organizations, media representatives, and scholars to share their views.

Below are some questions to guide the submissions. It is not necessary to respond to all questions.

    1. Please describe specific situations where disinformation, misinformation or propaganda have been used or restrictions have been placed on the media or access to the Internet in order to instigate, aggravate or sustain hatred, violence or conflict. What means and methods are used to manipulate information in such situations?
    2. What role have States, armed groups or social media platforms played to instigate or mitigate such manipulation of information?
    3. What has been the impact on human rights and the lives of people? Which groups of people have been particularly affected and in what ways?
    4. What has been the impact of such propaganda, disinformation or misinformation on the work of human rights defenders, journalists, civil society, humanitarian and development organizations?

Please provide written case-studies or reports on such situations where available

    1. What are the legal, policy and practical challenges faced by States, companies, media and civil society organizations in upholding freedom of opinion and expression while countering hate speech, disinformation or other forms of information manipulation in situations of conflict and disturbances?
    2. What role have States, armed groups or social media platforms played to instigate or mitigate such manipulation of information?
    1. What legislative, administrative, policy or regulatory or other measures has the government in your country taken to protect online and offline freedom of expression or access to information in times of emergency, conflict, violence, disturbances?
    2. What legislative, administrative, policy or regulatory or other measures exist in your country to address online or offline:
      • Propaganda for war;
      • Disinformation and misinformation; and
      • Incitement to violence, discrimination or hatred
    3. Is there recent jurisprudence or decisions in relation to these laws, policies or practices?
    4. What has been the impact of these measures on human rights and international humanitarian law?
    5. Do you have any suggestions on how these measures can be improved to uphold human rights while countering war propaganda, disinformation, misinformation and incitement?
    1. How do internet intermediaries address:
      • Propaganda for war;
      • Incitement to violence, discrimination or hatred
      • Disinformation and misinformation that instigates or aggravates violence, instability or conflicts
    2. In your view are the companies’ policies and measures in line with international human rights and humanitarian law standards, and are they being implemented effectively?
    3. What improvements would you suggest?
    4. What good practices have been developed by companies?
  1. What role has legacy media played in addressing disinformation, misinformation and propaganda in situations of conflict, violence and disturbances? What challenges do legacy media faced in combating such information manipulation?
  2. Please provide examples of good practices, including at the community level, to fight disinformation and hate speech during conflicts and disturbances.
  3. Please share any suggestions or recommendations you may have for the Special Rapporteur on how to protect and promote freedom of opinion and expression while countering the manipulation of information in times of conflict, disturbances or tensions.
  4. What other issues in relation to freedom of opinion and expression in the context of conflict do you feel should be given attention by the Special Rapporteur and why?

Please share any relevant documents, reports, news or academic articles that you believe should be considered by the Special Rapporteur.

Please send submissions in Word or PDF format no later than Monday 11 July 2022 to and mention in the subject line: Submission to report for UNGA 77.

It would be appreciated if your submissions could be sent in English, French or Spanish.