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Communication and Information Activities

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Freedom of Expression

UNESCO promotes freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a basic human right

An Electronic Clearing House and Alert Network

The International Freedom of Expression and Exchange Network - IFEX was originally set up as an electronic alert and coordination network by several non-governmental and professional organizations. Their objective was to enhance information-sharing and the efficiency of their reactions to cases of violations of press freedom. Operational since September 1992, IFEX is coordinated by the Toronto-based Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and supported by UNESCO.

At its core, IFEX is made up of organizations (list attached) whose members refuse to turn away when those who have the courage to insist upon their fundamental human right to free expression are censored, brutalized or killed. Over 50 different freedom of expression groups - located everywhere from the Pacific Islands to Europe to West Africa - IFEX draws together a tremendously diverse and dedicated global community. In recent years, the IFEX community has been joined by many new members from the developing world - bringing new perspectives and energy. Thanks to UNESCO’s support, notably its International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). IFEX's decentralized structure creates a dynamic and truly international body.

Meeting point of vital importance for the journalists and the media organizations, the IFEX network groups more than 15000 subscribers in 120 countries of which the big majority is from developing countries.

Since its creation, the IFEX network has not only enhanced the worldwide collection, production and distribution of information on all issues related to press freedom but also increased exchanges between developing countries. IFEX issues 2000 alerts per year, a weekly newsletter in five languages, and coordinates joint campaigns. The IFEX data base on the Internet can be consulted on the IFEX website on the http ://www.ifex.org.

Action Alert Network

One of the central components of IFEX is the Action Alert Network (AAN). Member organizations report free expression abuses in their geographic region or area of expertise to the Clearing House which, in turn, circulates this information to other members and interested organizations all over the world. This efficient system enables members to stay abreast of their counterparts' activities, share information and research, and focus their energies where most needed.

Importantly, the AAN also allows for a rapid, world-wide and coordinated response to press freedom and freedom of expression violations. Action Alerts help turn spotlights from around the world squarely on those responsible for human rights violations - and this can make a significant difference, as those who violate human rights often rely on the cover of darkness. Action Alerts are the mainstay of our work for the simple reason that we have seen coordinated letter-writing campaigns help unlock prison doors, lift publication bans and even save lives.
The AAN also provides updates on recent developments in ongoing cases and circulates important freedom of expression press releases. Email: alerts@ifex.org


In addition to the AAN, IFEX members keep in contact through the IFEX Communiqué, a weekly email newsletter that reports on important free expression developments worldwide, upcoming events, and announcements on workshops, conferences and publications. The IFEX Communiqué is available in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic. Email: communique@ifex.org


A key area of the Clearing House's work is the Outreach Programme. Based on a recognition of current North-South disparities, this programme is designed to support and strengthen fledgling freedom of expression organizations in the developing world, Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union. The risks and obstacles faced by people who attempt to start up free expression groups in countries plagued by human rights abuses or censorship can be overwhelming, and IFEX offers vital transfusions of information, financial and technical resources, expertise, and international support and recognition. Email: outreach@ifex.org

The Internet

In recent years, the Internet has become the main artery of communication for the IFEX community. The speed and relative low-cost of electronic mail has made it an especially powerful medium for IFEX's members in the developing world, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, enabling organizations with few resources and even less international exposure to bring immediate attention to those arrested or endangered for speaking out. The IFEX website is the place of record for free expression information from all over the world, containing an exhaustive archive of alerts, reports, articles and links.

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