Description of the right to communicate

Description of the right to communicate

A multi-layer description of the right to communicate is set forth below. It has been distilled from a wide range of activities and across decades. Even so, it has no formal standing.

A framework for this right must accommodate two perspectives: the fundamental and the inclusive. From the fundamental perspective, agreement that everyone has the right to communicate appears to be commonplace. From the inclusive perspective, however, the freedom to exercise any specific communication right and easy access to the resources required to do so may, at times, generate intense debate, even conflict. Freedom requires access to resources.


In this multi-layer framework, the first layer differentiates the right to communicate from the other human rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The right to communicate is a fundamental and inclusive human right; it is both a

  • natural right of the human person and a
  • prerequisite for the exercise of the other human rights.

This fundamental right enriches the cultural heritage of humankind.

Today, it is understood that this right is a prerequisite for the exercise of other, some would say, all, human rights. For that reason, access to communication resources remains a critical issue.


The second layer of a framework for the right to communicate is displayed below. At the core of this fundamental right is the basic and universal claim that everyone has the right to communicate. Attached closely to this core and inseparable from it emerge three classes of specific communication rights: association rights, information rights, and global rights.

Association rights Information rights Global rights
Assemble Inform Privacy
Speech Informed Choice
Participate Inquire Culture
... ... ...

The three dots signify that from time to time any two specific communication rights may be consolidated or that new specific rights may be added as circumstances warrant. In that sense the right to communicate is an open and flexible concept. The specific communication rights are interdependent. Consider inquire and privacy, or participate, inform and culture. Perhaps, each specific right will be found to have a working range. Further dialog, study and data are needed on these and other interdependencies -- a research task for the immediate future.


The third layer of the right to communicate may be described as follows.

Everyone has the right to communicate; this fundamental human right includes but is not limited to the following specific communication rights:

  • a right to assemble, a right to speech, a right to participate and related association rights;
  • a right to inform, a right to be informed, a right to inquire and related information rights;
  • a right to privacy, a right to choose, a right to culture and related global rights

As a standard for achievement, the full recognition of the right to communicate requires that the communication resources be available to meet the basic communication needs of everyone.

An earlier version of this description of the right to communicate appeared on page 173 in Many voices, one world, the MacBride Report, published in 1980 by Unesco where it was noted that 'this approach promises to advance democratization of communication on all levels.'

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