Purpose: The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression is seeking written contributions to inform her forthcoming report on Freedom of Expression in Challenging Times. The report will be presented at the 79th session of the UN General Assembly in October 2024.


Building on the Special Rapporteur’s previous work on freedom of expression and armed conflicts (A/77/288) and using the conflict in Gaza as a case study, the Special Rapporteur will examine the threats and challenges to freedom of expression globally.     

The attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians on 7 October 2023, the massive military offensive launched by Israel in Gaza and the ensuing humanitarian catastrophe, including unprecedented levels of civilian deaths, forced displacement, and destruction of buildings and infrastructure, severe restrictions on basic humanitarian assistance and serious concerns about war crimes and possible genocide, have aroused strong reactions across the globe.

In Gaza itself, the intensity of Israel’s military action, the large numbers of journalists killed, internet disruptions, and blocking of live feeds, media bans and refusal to grant independent access to foreign press by Israel have made access to information and reporting on Gaza dangerous and difficult.

Around the world, in the wake of Israel’s military action in Gaza, strong views have emerged or have been revived, supporting or opposing the Palestinian and Israeli positions, which in turn have led to pushbacks against freedom of expression and increased hate speech and disinformation that may have broader repercussions on freedom of expression.

Public debate and large-scale demonstrations have occurred in many countries on the streets, on university campuses, public places and social media platforms, condemning Israel’s military action, calling for an immediate ceasefire, demanding divestment from Israel, and accountability for war crimes and genocide. Counter protests expressing support for the Israeli military operation, or to call for the release of the hostages held by Hamas, have also occurred. There have also been alarming reports of censorship of speech, violent suppression of peaceful protests, intimidation and threats to silence dissenting views, and a spike in disinformation, propaganda and hate speech, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, online and offline, to create a climate of fear, and stifle open, pluralistic debate.

The report will analyze the trends, challenges and threats to freedom of expression in relation to the Gaza conflict and the situation in OPT and their broader consequences on media freedom, safety of journalists, artistic and academic freedoms, political expression and the right to peaceful protest. It will examine national laws, policies and practices of States to safeguard freedom of expression and prohibit hate speech and assess their effectiveness and the extent to which they adhere to international legal obligations. It will also examine the role, responsibilities and responses of  other actors, including social media and legacy media companies and University administrations, to respect freedom of expression and address threats, disinformation and hate speech online and offline.

The Special Rapporteur invites submissions from governments, international and regional organisations, national institutions, media organisations, digital technology and social media companies, human rights and other civil society organisations, scholars, legal experts and interested individuals on the topic of her report. In particular, she would welcome information and comments in response to one or more of the following questions:

  1. Trends, challenges and problems

    1. What are the key trends, threats or challenges to freedom of expression, including media freedom, artistic expression, academic freedom and peaceful protests, that you see in your country or in countries where you work in relation to the Gaza conflict and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian territories (OPT)?  How similar or dissimilar are the threats, restrictions and challenges of freedom of expression on the Gaza conflict or OPT as compared to speaking out on other political, social or economic problems in your country or countries where you work?       
    2. Have the trends, threats or challenges to freedom of expression in relation to the Gaza conflict affected human rights, especially freedom of expression, more broadly in your country or countries where you work? 
    3. What role have policies and practices of social media platforms played in the trends, threats and challenges to freedom expression in relation to the OPT and the Gaza conflict?
    4. Has there been a rise in threats, violence or incitement of violence, hostility and discrimination against specific racial, religious or ethnic groups, in particular Jewish, Muslim or Arab groups and individuals since the outbreak of the conflict in Gaza, including possible statements demonstrating genocidal intent? Please provide concrete examples and statistical and other data, if available, and where appropriate, highlight gender dimensions.
    5. Do journalists or media outlets face any formal or informal restrictions on reporting or access to information related to the OPT or the Gaza conflict in your country?
  2. Laws, policies and practices of States and companies

    1. What measures have i) governments; ii) digital and social media companies iii) media companies and iv) other non-State or private actors, such as Universities, taken to uphold and safeguard freedom of expression and access to information in your country? What has been the impact of these measures? Please highlight any ethnic, racial, religious or gender dimensions of the measures.
    2. Has your government adopted any legislative, administrative or policy measures to promote or restrict freedom of expression and access to information specifically in relation to the OPT situation or Gaza conflict? Are you aware of any judicial decisions or ongoing court cases in relation to these issues.
    3. What legal or policy measures exist or have been introduced in your country to address “hate speech” or advocacy of national, religious, or racial hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence? How effective have they been in practice?
    4. Are there any specific legislative or policy measures in your country to define and combat antisemitism or Islamophobia? Please provide legal texts and examples, if possible.
  3. Recommendations and good practices

    1. What recommendations do you think the Special Rapporteur should make to governments, companies, the media and civil society to uphold the right to freedom of expression and prohibit hate speech?
    2. Please provide examples of good practices by governments, companies, the media sector, civil society and other stakeholders.
    3. Please share any relevant documents, reports, news or academic articles that you believe should be considered in the preparation of her report
Next Steps

Contributions can be made until Friday 21 June 2024. Contributions will be made public on the OHCHR website, unless requested otherwise.

Email address: 

Email subject line:
Input thematic report freedom of expression

Word/Page limit: 
2000 words

Accepted file formats: 
Excel, Word, PDF

Accepted Languages: 
English, Spanish, French