Freedom of speech is the main measure of openness in a society, but for the last ten years, the space for free expression has declined globally. Laws are in place or in the making which curtail freedom of expression – in the name of national security or to prevent public disorder and combat crime.
In repressive societies, the chill on free speech is absolute, but even in more democratic societies, polarisation has led to growing numbers of people holding a view that can be summarised as: ‘you should be able to say what you like, but only as long as you agree with me’. And, even though technology facilitates freedom of expression, it can also easily be used to censor information of public interest, expand surveillance and attack critical internet users.
For artists, journalists, bloggers, civic hackers and human rights defenders, freedom of expression is the core value of their work; they are the first ones to defend it.
Hivos works with these people in places where freedom of expression is limited or challenged, With our partners, we seek the limits of what is permissible in different ways, such as creating safe creative breeding grounds where ideas can come to fruition, and providing emerging artists with wide networks and access to otherwise unreachable platforms.
We also support independent media that reach a wide audience through smart use of the means of communication available to them. This includes working towards an open internet. Hivos offers online opinion makers tools that screen them from secret services and allow them to do their work anonymously. We also engage in national and international lobbying, for we believe internet freedom must be enshrined in law.
For Hivos, freedom of expression is therefore not so much a means to achieve its ideals as an end in itself.