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The freedom to publish is a subset of the freedom of expression. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is at the basis of democracy and is of fundamental importance to the safeguarding of human dignity. The diversity of sources of knowledge and information is an essential prerequisite for cultural diversity, creativity, prosperity, tolerance, and the development of societies worldwide.

Freedom of expression is embodied in many international treaties and declarations. Most prominently they can be found in the following international and regional instruments:

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A(III) of 10 December 1948:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200 A (XXI) of 16 December 1966:

"1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law or are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals."

Article 10 European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, signed on 4 November 1950:

"1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive an impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties an responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity of public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority or impartiality of the judiciary."