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.
Communication is recognized as an essential human need. Without it, no individual or community can exist, or prosper. Communication enables meanings to be exchanged, compels people to act, and makes them who and what they are.
Communication strengthens human dignity and validates human equality. By recognizing, implementing and protecting communication rights, we recognize, implement and protect all other human rights.
Communication rights go beyond freedom of opinion and expression to include areas such as democratic media governance, media ownership and control, cultural diversity, linguistic rights, and the right to education, privacy, peaceful assembly, and self-determination. These are matters of inclusion and exclusion, of accessibility and affordability. In short, they are questions of human dignity.
From the early 1970s, decade-long discussions on media and communications led governments of the South, by then a majority in the UN, to voice concerns about media concentration, the one-way flow of news, and “cultural imperialism”.
The MacBride Report (1981), “Many Voices, One World”, called for a more just and more efficient world information and communication order. But the ensuing debate was polarised by the Cold War and fell apart after the USA and the UK pulled out of UNESCO. In 1988, when the Report was no longer available, WACC stepped in and republished it.
At the same time, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were becoming increasingly active in relation to a variety of communication issues, from community media, to language rights, to copyright, to free and open source software. The idea of communication rights began to take shape from the ground up.
WACC joined the debate led by the Communications Rights in the Information Society (CRIS) campaign. The CCR web portal, originally launched in 2008, carries many of the significant documents and articles related to that initiative.
The “right to communicate” and “communication rights” are not identical. The right to communicate envisages formal legal acknowledgment of such a right as a basis for effective implementation. Communication rights, however, emphasize that an array of international rights underpinning communication already exists, but many are often ignored or require sustained mobilization.
As the debate moves on, WACC dedicates the CCR to strengthening the public voices and participation of poor, marginalized, excluded, and dispossessed people and communities worldwide.
Researchers, scholars and advocates of communication rights often cite Jean d'Arcy's article in the European Broadcasting Union Review (1969) in which he predicted the legal formulation of a "right to communicate". Throughout his career, d'Arcy continued to promote the use of information and communication technologies as instruments of human rights and democratic freedom.