Words by Simeon Gready - June 2015

Where are you from?

Cape Town, South Africa

What is your occupation?

I work as a Junior Programme Officer for Justice and Peace Netherlands in the Hague. Specifically, I work on a project called the ‘The Hague Training Course for Human Rights Defenders on Security’ (THTC), a bi-annual training course for grassroots Human Rights Defenders that aims to facilitate the strengthening of their knowledge and skills on security issues and the building of the international networks: video link.

When did you first become interested in freedom of expression as a topic?

I would say that my interest in freedom of expression first emerged towards the end of High School, though I became more aware of its importance and, similarly, its global complications while at University.

I have always been a writer, on a variety of topics, and, in that capacity, I would say that I had something of a sheltered upbringing in that I was always encouraged to write on whatever I wanted in school and at home. I kept thinking to myself, “this is easy – I have no fear of any consequences.” Only when I started properly educating myself did I realise that this is not the reality for a huge amount of people around the world; there are writers who cannot express themselves because of fears I had never encountered.

What do you see as the greatest danger to freedom of expression globally?

I think, in broad terms, the issue of repressive regimes is a huge obstacle for freedom of expression. Governments pass laws that directly affect a citizen’s ability to safely discuss or debate certain issues.

We can look at Egypt as an example: the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi recently drafted a law that “criminalises the reporting of terrorism statistics that differ from those the government provides.” The state can essentially feed false information on terrorism to its citizens in the knowledge that any journalist, for instance, that attempts to investigate and report the real statistics will be prosecuted. It takes away all modes of government accountability. The power that these sort of states are able to wield is the greatest danger to freedom of expression.