Human rights as a topic and guide for LIS research and practice

Kay Mathiesen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In this global information age, accessing, disseminating, and controlling information is an increasingly important aspect of human life. Often, these interests are expressed in the language of human rights - for example, rights to expression, privacy, and intellectual property. As the discipline concerned with "facilitating the effective communication of desired information between human generator and human user" (Belkin, 1975, p. 22), library and information science (LIS) has a central role in facilitating communication about human rights and ensuring the respect for human rights in information services and systems. This paper surveys the literature at the intersection of LIS and human rights. To begin, an overview of human rights conventions and an introduction to human rights theory is provided. Then the intersections between LIS and human rights are considered. Three central areas of informational human rights - communication, privacy, and intellectual property - are discussed in detail. It is argued that communication rights in particular serve as a central linchpin in the system of human rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1305-1322
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • ethics
  • freedom of information
  • human rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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