Promoting Justice /
Protecting Rights

Freedom of Expression

The freedoms of expression and assembly are closely related and represent one of the basic pillars of a democratic society.

These freedoms are frequently amongst the prime targets of authoritarian or populist governments and are routinely denied in many countries across the world. They also have a particular resonance in Northern Ireland given the past of flagrantly discriminatory policing directed at preventing nationalist expression and the present of a marching culture in the unionist community but also in parts of the nationalist community. Internationally, there is something of a division between those who uphold an unfettered freedom of expression, whatever the discriminatory or intimidatory content, and the other extreme of those who wish to impose, for example, blasphemy laws or the banning of any “offensive” content.

CAJ takes its stand on upholding the freedoms of expression and assembly but at the same time abiding by international treaties, jurisprudence and soft law which demand the outlawing of racist expression that leads directly to violence or discrimination and legitimate restrictions in the context of competing rights. However, it cannot be denied that this is an area where legal certainty has by no means been absolute – where to “draw the line” between protected free speech, even when offensive, and prohibited hate speech is not always clear. It is one of CAJ’s priorities to contribute to legal clarity in this area.

Latest press releases and publications

16
Jun

Amnesty and CAJ raise concerns over laws restricting protest ahead of assembly debate

Human rights organisations concerned at last-minute law changes and PSNI action against Black Lives Matter protests Amnesty International UK and the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) have written to every MLA – in advance of a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly today (Tuesday 16 June 2020) – to outline concerns about law...
08
Jun

Laws restricting protest in Northern Ireland unacceptable

CAJ joins with Amnesty International UK to condemn the issuing of fines at Black Lives Matter (BLM) rallies in NI The last-minute introduction of fines against peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in Northern Ireland over the weekend is “unacceptable”, Amnesty International UK and CAJ said today. The human rights organisations have raised concerns that enforcement...
28
Apr

Submission to the Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Northern Ireland

Tacking incitement to hatred, in accordance with international human rights standards, is an area of priority focus for CAJ. Partially in response to lobbying from CAJ, an independent review of Northern Ireland’s hate crime legislation was agreed by former Justice Minister Claire Sugden in 2017, before officially launching in 2019 with Judge Desmond Marrinan at...
Cover of OSJI CAJ joint principles
05
Mar

Principles and Guidelines on Protest and the Right to Information

Social protests provide an important avenue for people to exercise their right to freedom of expression and their right to peaceful assembly. However, in recent years, many jurisdictions have placed new restrictions on protests, which often do not comport with international law and do not enhance public safety (or serve another legitimate purpose). In response...
30
Jan

Launch of ‘Sectarianism: The Key Facts’

Mike Nesbitt MLA and Colin McGrath MLA invite you to the launch of Sectarianism: The Key Facts, a framework report on tackling institutional sectarianism in Northern Ireland. When: 12pm to 2pm, Monday 17 February 2020 Where: Room 115, Parliament Buildings, Stormont Commissioned by the Equality Coalition, independent researcher Dr Robbie McVeigh has authored a piece...
11
Dec

CAJ Annual Report 2019

We are living in strange times, dominated by Brexit, but the work of CAJ has continued, unabated, over the last twelve months. In our latest annual report, CAJ’s key achievements from the last year are highlighted, including the establishment of two brand new projects to take our work forward. Introduction to the report: This has...
03
Oct

Defining Public Duties to Tackle Incitement to Hatred whilst Respecting Freedom of Expression: Reviewing the Legal & Policy Framework – conference report

A one-day conference was held on 13 October 2017 to explore, from a human rights perspective, when public authorities can or must act against speech and cultural expression in order to protect the rights of others. The event was organised by the Equality Coalition, with support from the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global...
15
Mar

Local Councils, Obligations and the Irish Language: A Framework for Compliance

Working with Conradh na Gaeilge and Ulster University, we have produced a report documenting how commitments made by the UK government in relation to the Irish language have been put into practice by councils in Northern Ireland. Local councils have an important role to play in fulfilling state duties in relation to the Irish language....
Cover of Just News Winter 2019
01
Mar

Just News Winter 2019

Inside this issue: A look at the threats faced by human rights defenders in both Northern Ireland and in Egypt. Conradh na Gaeilge writes about the major shortcomings in special educational needs (SEN) provision for Irish medium schools. We report on a recent session of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which focused on human rights and...

Get involved!

Get into touch with CAJ

Donate

Help CAJ sustain their work

Become a member

Become an active part of CAJ