Prior Consent and the United Nations Human Rights Instruments

After reviewing the legal framework of an international right of freedom of information, this article examines United States opposition to prior consent in the context of the human rights provisions. It contends that the United States should not argue that any recognition of a right of prior consent is inconsistent with Article 19, but rather that international principles recognize a right of prior consent limited to certain types of programming. The article then considers arguments for the Third World position of strict prior consent concluding that, in addition to being inconsistent with the general intent of Article 19, strict prior consent is not the proper response to the inequities in world communications. The General Assembly Principles attempt to reconcile the problems raised by new technology in a world of existing inequities by imposing a requirement of strict prior consent on the use of this technology. This article argues that a better solution would be to define the broad limitations enunciated in the human rights provisions so as to attempt to achieve consensus on those areas of programming considered particularly objectionable.