Communication as a Human Need and Human Right

By Michael Traber - 1992

The need to communicate, therefore, is intrinsic to human nature. Precisely because communication is such a fundamental human need, those who control communication also control people. The history of communication is a long history of silencing people, from the persecution of ‘heretics’ and ‘freethinkers’ to the transfer of ‘dissidents’ to psychiatric wards or solitary confinement. It is also a history of people’s struggle to speak up and speak publicly.

In the following, the author first explains the origin of the concept of communication as a right and refers, secondly, to its main articulation in the MacBride Report and through debate in UNESCO in particular. The third section is devoted to the question of control: should the State or the market control communication? The fourth part raises the issue of public responsibility for the right to communicate, and the article concludes by highlighting some difficulties which need to be taken up in the debate.

First published in Religion and Society, Vol. XXXIX, No. 1, March 1992. Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, Bangalore, India. Republished in Communicating Peace: Entertaining Angels Unawares (ed. Philip Lee), Penang: Southbound (2008). PDF.


By Michael Traber| 1992


Communication rights enable all people everywhere to express themselves individually and collectively by all means of communication. They are vital to full participation in society and are, therefore, universal human rights belonging to every man, woman, and child.


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