“Disinformation as a Human Rights Violation”
The report, titled “Disinformation as a Human Rights Abuse in the Context of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine,” was prepared for Russia’s fourth cycle review under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) framework. The collaborating Ukrainian organizations included Detector Media, Internews Ukraine, the Institute of Mass Information, TEXTY, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, and VoxUkraine, with support from DT Institute. Although the UPR primarily addresses domestic human rights issues, during Russia’s third cycle review, United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) member states made approximately 20 recommendations regarding Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territories, thereby establishing a precedent.
Disinformation and propaganda constitute violations of the right to freedom of expression under international law, particularly when they interfere with our freedom to hold opinion without interference, restrict access to information, coerce or manipulate individuals, promote discrimination or hostility towards certain groups, endanger public health, disrupt democratic societies, or infringe on individuals’ abilities to receive and share information. Such actions breach numerous international human rights conventions, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
By framing disinformation and propaganda as human rights violation, we are looking to open new ways and opportunities for human rights defenders worldwide to engage with governments and the private sector regarding their obligations to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the human rights of rights-holders.
The report details the unprecedented use of disinformation and propaganda to violate the rights of Ukrainian citizens during the escalation of Russian military efforts against democratic Ukraine. It provides evidence of Russia’s deployment of disinformation and propaganda to restrict public access to accurate information, coerce and manipulate the public, foster fear, incite discrimination, hostility, and violence among the Ukrainian population, and interfere with Ukrainians’ health and safety. The report also presents 20 recommendations, urging the Russian Federation to cease promoting genocidal rhetoric against Ukrainians, halt the dissemination of dangerous hate speech and disinformation infringing on their human rights, and put an end to the spread of false narratives and fabricated information that incite fear and restrict people’s freedom to form opinions without interference.
Following the submission of the report, the Ukrainian organizations leading this effort, supported by the DT Institute, will advocate for endorsement and implementation of their recommendations by UN HRC member states. They will leverage the UN HRC platform to address disinformation and propaganda in multilateral forums, aiming to raise awareness and combat these issues.
Simultaneously, we will collaborate with organizations from various countries to sustain efforts in documenting cases of disinformation and propaganda leading to human rights violations. We will also provide recommendations to states and businesses on safeguarding the rights of their citizens and users, aiming to prevent such violations in the future.
If you are interested in participating in or supporting this initiative or seeking more information about DT Institute’s approach to disinformation and propaganda, please contact Vukasin Petrovic, Vice President at DT Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org)