An examination of the jurisprudence related to the right to freedom of opinion and expression demonstrates that the right is very complex and protects a wide range of topics, such as the public exchange of cultural, political and social information and ideas of all kinds, including artistic expression and commercial speech.
When deciding on whether the interference with the right to freedom of opinion and expression was provided by law, served a legitimate aim or met a high standard of necessity, international supervisory bodies seem to dismiss states’ arguments that have tried to justify restrictions to the right to freedom of expression on the basis of public order or national security. With regard to public morals and health, however, international supervisory bodies have accorded states parties a broad margin of appreciation.
With regard to the freedom of the press, there seems to be a consensus in international case-law that the freedom of the press is one of the most important features of the right to freedom of expression and restrictions on free press are very difficult to justify by states as the entire function of the press is to publish information and ideas and perform the task of ‘purveyor of information and public watchdog’ (Lingens v. Austria, Application No. 9815/82, Judgement of 8 July 1986). A distinction is however made between the audio-visual media and the print media, and wider margin of appreciation is given to states parties when restricting the audio-visual media as it is considered to have a more immediate and powerful effect on the public than the print media (Murphy v. Ireland, Application No. 44179/98, Judgement of 10 July 2003).