Oral statement on freedom of expression, assembly and association during elections

Oral Statement Delivered by Gayathry Venkiteswaran on behalf of
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) during the
26th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Thank you Mr. President. FORUM-ASIA welcomes the reports of the two Special Rapporteurs. Concerns identified by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (A/HRC/26/30) have found reflection in a number of recent electoral processes in Asia. Attacks against journalists, political candidates and activists are rampant in the region, including in Pakistan[1] and Bangladesh, where recent national elections were marred by violence.[2] Widespread, regulatory and legal restrictions on freedom of expression are also prevalent in the region. For example in Malaysia, human rights defenders, political activists and opposition leaders who spoke on alleged electoral irregularities in the 2013 general elections were criminalised under the Sedition Act.[3] Ruling parties’ monopoly in mainstream media ownership saw heavy bias towards the incumbent in Malaysia and Cambodia. The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission recently found at least six television stations broadcasting disproportionate and excessive political advertisements in the country.[4]

FORUM-ASIA echoes the Special Rapporteur’s emphasis on the importance of independent and effective accountability and redress mechanisms for human rights violations in the context of elections. We also strongly support the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations for all States to take specific steps to ensure plurality, transparency and accountability in all aspects relating to freedom of expression in electoral processes.

FORUM-ASIA reiterates the call by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in his 2013 report to the UN General Assembly (A/68/299) for the Human Rights Committee “to consider developing general comments on articles 21 and 22 of the ICCPR, with a particular focus on the enjoyment of both rights in the context of elections”. We note that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, was curtailed several times in recent Asian election processes, for example: in Malaysia and Cambodia, post-elections protests against alleged electoral irregularities have been banned or criminalised.[5], [6] We call for the Council’s sustained attention on human rights violations in the context of elections.

Mr. President, FORUM-ASIA further welcomes the current report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (A/HRC/26/29) for its focus on groups most at risk. FORUM-ASIA echoes the Special Rapporteur’s call to ensure that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association of these groups are not only protected but facilitated, and that these rights should not be unduly limited. Expressing concern that the rights of those who advocate and lobby on behalf of groups most at risk are often violated, we support the Special Rapporteur’s call to ensure that their rights are not denied. FORUM-ASIA reiterates its call on States to fully implement recommendations contained in the Special Rapporteur’s previous reports.

Lastly, FORUM-ASIA pays tribute to the high calibre of Mr. La Rue’s work which has not only distinguished key trends and patterns in violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, but also contributed to the normative development of issues related to freedom of expression and opinion. Thank you Mr. President.



[1] Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Preliminary report on elections 2013, 12 May 2013.

[4] Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, Maintaining media standards amidst change, 2 May 2014.