International Covenant Civil & Politics Rights, Article 19: The Right to Know – Internet Access

In order to fully appreciate the immense importance of our right to access to information in a library, we must first understand the United Nation’s declaration that every individual in the world has a human right to freedom of expression as well as, a human right to internet.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 19

In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 states that every human being has a right to freedom of opinion and expression. The rule further states that this right includes the freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media…” (United Nations, n.d., p. 3).

The freedom of expression in Article 19 grants the right to all individuals. Freedom of expression gifts people the ability to understand the world through an unbiased lens and creates a safe and unfettered way to exchange ideas and opinions with others without fearing the repercussions of intolerant laws.

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Expansion of Article 19 to encompass a human right to internet access

Nearly the entire globe uses the internet to communicate and work in their daily lives. Billions of people have access to the internet but there are many governments and countries that seek to restrict or control usage. In 2016, the United Nations saw the importance of providing a right to uncensored access to internet. On July 01, 2016, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations and a multitude of countries passed the “promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet. (United Nations,  July 2016, p. 1) The resolution that was adopted contained many clauses that described the importance and scope of the right to internet. Of the most notable and helpful to the information profession were those that noted the link to lack of internet (and therefore access to information) in certain groups of people. The resolution noted that there is a digital divide between genders, poorer countries, individuals with disabilities and that countries should not alter or disrupt the distribution of information that is available on the internet.

Why is this important to librarianship?

Under the American Library Association, it is a librarian’s role to promote the freedom of expression and access to information. With the development of technology, this has expanded to include internet usage. As librarians we should know the greater importance of upholding this right – it is not simply a right prescribed by the United States Constitution but a right the world is in agreement about. In conclusion, it is important for librarians to know the full scope of our duty to provide our patrons with unfettered internet access because of its vast importance.


American Library Association. (n.d.) Library Bill of Rights.

Article 19. (n.d.). Freedom of expression. Retrieved from

Sandle, T. (2016, July 22). UN thinks internet access is a human right. Retrieved from

United Nations (2016, June 27). Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. Retrieved from

—. (2016, July 18). Resolution adopted by the human rights council on 1 July 2016. Retrieved from

—. (n.d.) Universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved from

Authored by: Heather Levrant