Freedom of expression and internet freedom

Freedom of expression is an essential part of a properly functioning democracy and a free society. People should be free to express themselves both online and offline. But in many parts of the world freedom of expression is under threat. 

Dutch efforts to promote freedom of expression worldwide

The number of imprisoned journalists has risen sharply over the past few years. The Dutch government promotes the independent position of journalists and media organisations worldwide.

Dutch efforts focus on 3 main points:

  • Prevention. For example by helping to create a culture in which freedom of expression is a given.
  • Protection. For example by ensuring relevant legislation is in place, providing security (including cybersecurity) training and offering safe havens to journalists under threat.
  • Prosecution. For example by making sure people who physically or verbally threaten journalists do not go unpunished.

At international level the Netherlands strengthens freedom of expression in various ways:

  • The Netherlands ensures freedom of expression is a top priority at various international organisations, including the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OCSE) and the European Union (EU).
  • The Netherlands works with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that promote freedom of expression. These include Free Press Unlimited and RNW Media.
  • Through its Human Rights Fund, the Netherlands also supports various projects relating to freedom of expression. For an up-to-date overview of projects, see the Human Rights Report which is submitted to Parliament each year.
  • The Dutch Human Rights Ambassador raises the issue with journalists and representatives of governments, civil society organisations and businesses.
  • Each year the Netherlands marks World Press Freedom Day on 3 May and the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists on 2 November.

Dutch efforts to promote internet freedom worldwide

In areas where internet freedom is under threat, the Netherlands supports internet users by:

  • helping human rights defenders protect themselves against violations of their human rights online. Possible violations include monitoring their devices or limiting their internet access;
  • developing international standards to strengthen human rights online, together with other countries that share the same principles;
  • opposing strict legislation that poses a threat to human rights online;
  • ensuring internet freedom is a top priority at international organisations, including the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE;
  • pressing for human rights resolutions to be adopted by the UN;
  • playing an active role in the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC). This coalition of 30 countries on 5 continents was founded by the Netherlands and promotes human rights online;
  • putting political pressure on countries that track down and punish human rights defenders for posting online about the human rights situation in their country;
  • providing support through the Human Rights Fund to NGOs that promote internet freedom. For an up-to-date overview of projects see the Human Rights Report which is submitted to Parliament each year;
  • supporting the Dutch Human Rights Ambassador, who raises awareness about the importance of internet freedom in contacts with governments, civil society organisations and businesses.